Have Business Valuation Multiples Plateaued?


According to the November GF Data® report, middle-market1 deal valuations continued to show signs of plateauing in the third quarter of 2018. GF Data®, which tracked 63 completed transactions in the $10 million to $250 million total Enterprise Value2 (TEV) range, said “there is still some forward momentum in some niche sectors, but more broadly, we see froth coming out of the market.” In other words, valuations may be at the beginning of a downward trend.

Across a wide range of industries, valuations of middle-market companies in Q3 2018 averaged 7.3x Adjusted EBITDA3 versus 7.5x for Q3 2017. Year-to-date average valuation multiples are 7.1x (see chart A). From an industry perspective, average middle-market valuation multiples were: manufacturing 6.9x, business services 7.0x, healthcare services 7.5x, distribution 7.0x, and technology 9.8x. While the number of completed deals year-to-date is down from the comparable 2017 period, demand for companies with above average financial performance remains very strong. The significant amount of cash held by strategic and financial buyers, along with ample availability and use of higher leverage (debt), are largely responsible for the strong demand and high valuation multiples.

Valuation Multiples by Transaction Size

Valuation Multiples by Transaction Size11-2018.png

Historically, valuation multiples vary by Adjusted EBITDA2 level (see chart B). The greater the Adjusted EBITDA, the higher the valuation multiple. 2018 deals also show the continued assertion of the “quality premium.” This is the reward in valuation being paid to companies with above-average financial performance. The quality premium paid the first nine months of 2018 was 24%.

Valuation Multiples by EBITDA Size

Valuation Multiples by EBITDA Size-11-2018.png

Saybrook Capital Advisors (SCA) sees strong merger & acquisition activity with a healthy pool of financial and strategic buyers. When strategic buyers pay more for a company than a financial buyer, the premium being paid is typically 5-15% according to the 2017 Pepperdine Capital Markets Report. While a growing economy and ample debt financing typically bodes well for owners seeking to sell or recapitalize their company, owners need to be mindful that these historically high valuations will not last forever. Accordingly, owners should be asking themselves whether this highly attractive seller’s window is one they and their family can afford to miss.

Saybrook Capital Advisors has a strong understanding of how to maximize a company’s value and position it to the buyer groups that will best accomplish an owner’s goals. Preparation and the use of a SCA’s proven transaction process are the keys to achieving the best results. Please contact Saybrook Capital Advisors for a confidential discussion of valuation multiples specific to your industry and company’s characteristics.

  1. Middle-Market refers to companies with an Enterprise Value of $10 million to $250 million.

  2. Enterprise Value is the entire value of the company (equity value plus the value of debt, minus cash). Enterprise value for private companies is typically calculated by applying a valuation multiple to Adjusted EBITDA.

  3. Adjusted EBITDA (AE) typically is the key metric used in the valuation of a privately-owned company. AE represents earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization adjusted to exclude one-time, non-recurring and extraordinary expenses, and to adjust owner compensation plus other expenses to market rates. AE is often times referred to as “normalized earnings.”