• What are some of the most common issues that owner-managed , mid-market companies have when they first approach you?

Owner-managed businesses come to us for two main reasons: to establish an exit plan or to raise capital for growth. Many owner-managed businesses don’t spend enough time on the strategy of how they are going to exit the business, what the value of the business is, what’s the appropriate time to raise capital and what type of capital should be raised.

  • What kind of misconceptions do they have about their businesses and/or the markets they operate in?

Having consulted closely with clients, one of the observations we have made is that there is a valuation gap between seller and buyer or investor and company. Most business owners at private company level typically go and look at listed companies in their sector. They look at the amounts their peers are trying to get and presume: ” I earned 10 million dollars last year therefore I’m worth 150 million dollars,” which isn’t the case.

Many businesses consider selling their businesses when it needs a step-change in the investment cycle, which can lead to enhanced levels of capital requirement, risk to a purchaser and therefore a lower valuation- a ‘valuation gap.’ ”The more transparent and sophisticated the market is, the less the valuation gap,”

  •  Some thought leaders believe that setting an exit plan from the start is akin to setting yourself up for failure,  do you agree?

I actually see this as essential from the outset. How else do you know what strategy your business should pursue? An exit, isn’t typically a full exit. Nobody’s going to acquire 100% of an owner-managed business and then let them go lie on a beach in the Bahamas. It’s always going to be a 60-40 or 70-30 buyout with a significant future commitment to the business.  So you’ve got to plan for that.

  • What kind of advice would you give to a company that can’t decide whether to try and expand or sell?

    When businesses approach Lumina, we first determine the shareholder’s objectives -as typically in a private company or owner-managed business you have two to five shareholders with differing objectives. One of them might be at retirement age, their kids’ gone off to be a Doctor in Philadelphia and never wants to run a textile factory. The other might be a 35 year-old who wants to continue and grow the business and raise capital. Another might be purely a financial investor who’s not actually involved in the management of the business. It’s essential to understand their individual objectives first, as you can’t close a transaction until these are fulfilled.

  • What kind of demand is there for your services in the market? Has this demand changed (increased/decreased) since you established the company?

With the rapid development of freezones and the corporate  and legislative infrastructure, we identified a key niche: Owner-managed businesses that require a level of investment banking advice not freely available in the market to those companies, at a senior level, for an affordable price.

In the last 36 months, we have has closed 7 M&A deals in excess of $150 million for owner managers; most recently advising UAE-based company Total Solutions Middle East on its sale to Vistra, a global corporate services firm. Most of these businesses that we’re advising are largely expatriate owned, and therefore at some point they will need to exit that business and at some point they will need to consider the succession planning of that business.

A main factor driving this demand for our services are the ”maturity of those businesses,” Whereas if you looked back 10 years ago they would have been small and unsophisticated, those businesses are now a decent-enough size-and complex enough- to warrant sophisticated financial planning and advice. A second main factor, is that local businesses are now using acquisition strategies as a ”preferred method or an integral part of their growth story,” 10 years ago this wasn’t so prevalent and the strategic buyer market has improved tremendously in terms of its sophistication.