About once a week, if not more, I find myself in conversations that revolve around some combination of earnings and multiples of earnings to get to a valuation. The most recent conversation revolved around a dramatic increase in valuation. How did the valuation increase so quickly? Early on, the company was underperforming relative to peers. When companies underperform, they are typically valued with a lower multiple. This is what I call the double whammy because the low earnings and the low multiple results in a low valuation. In the example under discussion, the company dramatically increased its EBITDA and was able to demonstrate that it was sustainable. So, the multiple went up as well. Here’s an example of what I mean:
Let’s say EBITDA is $10 million, low by industry standards, and the EBITDA multiple is 4x reflective of low performers in the industry. For simplicity sake, no other adjustments come into play, so the valuation is $40 million.
The company undergoes a transformation and is able to get EBITDA up to $40 million and can demonstrate it is sustainable, now a top performer with more upside. The EBIDA multiple may be more like 8x, which yields a valuation of $320 million. That’s a big difference!
While EBITDA multiples aren’t the only way to value a business, it is a very common approach. You can see the double whammy in play in the example above and the dramatic difference it has on a business. How are you avoiding the double whammy in your business?