Monday, March 26, 2007

Wither Private Equity?

Some readers have asked why I don’t have much to say about private equity, as PE seems to be the hot topic in just about any current financial forum. For starters, there’s not much that I could say, opinion-wise, about PE that isn’t already being more than adequately addressed by Equity Private and others in the PE field. Secondly, my focus always has been on corporate – strategic – dealmaking rather than that of the PE, or strictly financial, type.

For this reason, folks need to understand that my posts on topics such as the limitations of financial analysis are to be viewed through the lens of the corporate acquirer, who may be blending in non-financial (or at least difficult-to-quantify) factors relating to competition, speed to market, organic growth alternatives, etc. Obviously, financial analysis should take a far more prominent role in a PE setting.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


I haven't posted on this in a while, largely because it finally has become the competitive process it should have been from the beginning. Caremark's management had to be dragged into this, but the net result is likely to be a much better deal - with the same suitor, CVS - than the company would have gotten had management had its way. Sometimes you win in spite of yourself.

Monday, March 05, 2007

More Fun with (Financial) Models

Analysts I’ve worked with in the past have accused me of taking an overly-skeptical view toward financial analysis/valuation of potential deals. Guilty as charged, I suppose, although I’d quibble with the “overly” part.

As I’ve noted before, one of the inherent limitation of financial modeling is that its reliability as a predictive tool decreases with the level of uncertainty involved. Stable, slow-growing businesses are easy to model reliably; new or fast-growing ones, not so much. It’s a matter of “garbage-in, garbage-out”: if you’re guessing at future input levels (which you have to be doing for something new), your output will not necessarily conform with reality. That’s OK – often a best guess is fine – but decision-makers need to be able to differentiate between these two scenarios and discount the value of the model accordingly. I don’t see that done often enough.

Also on the subject of models: I am always amused that, more times than not, the bankers or brokers peddling distressed or declining businesses feel compelled to include a page showing three or five years of historical financials along with the corresponding period of projections. Imagine the revenue graph – the historical numbers trend downward, reaching their nadir at the time the business is being sold. Miraculously, at that point the trend reverses and heads upward from there in the projections. Sometimes there is an explanation for how this bit of magic is supposed to come about, more often not. I haven’t come up with a good name for this little bit of modeling desperation, but I’m partial to the “golden horseshoe.” Any other thoughts?