Asset based lending and your MBO

One of the key objectives of any management buy-out (MBO) team is usually to minimise the level of equity funding required to complete the deal. A greater proportion of funding derived from debt means a greater proportion of equity in the hands of the MBO team, and what is not to like about that?

So, what is asset based lending (“ABL”)? An ABL facility is provided against a wider pool of assets than mere factoring or invoice discounting and so, in theory, a greater amount of funding should be possible. The debtors will, of course, be included via invoice finance, but a lender will also include stock, plant and equipment and possibly property, although property lending is not necessarily everybody’s cup of tea. You could also securitise forward income streams assuming they are sufficiently robust.

Historically, smaller SMEs have found it difficult to secure ABL facilities but in recent years the number of providers lending to this sector has increased markedly. Invoices will normally attract an advance rate of somewhere between 70% and 90% with stock and plant possibly up to 75% of net orderly liquidation value. What does that mean I can hear you say? Basically, because assets such as stock and plant usually carry a higher realisation risk than debtors, the lender will independently assess what they might be able to sell those assets for in the open market on a reasonably quick but controlled basis, knock off some costs and then lend up to 75% of the net figure. Hence their back is covered but you get more borrowing.

For companies with very strong cash flow, an ABL may also consider a top up cash flow term loan to increase liquidity and headroom.

There are some key benefits to ABL. As your business grows, so can the borrowing when you need additional working capital. Security is very specific and because additional assets can be included and assessed separately, more funding can be unlocked than through a traditional bank loan or overdraft. ABL is often much quicker to deliver, with additional funding as the business grows being speedily provided. For larger companies, pricing ought to be competitive with more traditional lines of funding.

There can be some things to watch out for though. For smaller companies, the pricing may well be more expensive as small often equates to greater risk in the eyes of a lender. But hey, you got your money, didn’t you? If your business is cyclical, your funding line can reduce quickly as your debtors fall in the off season. In this case, it is critical that you have quality forecasts available so that you understand the working capital requirements at all stages of your business cycle. You really don’t want to over-borrow against debtors at a high point to get the deal done but then find you run out of cash subsequently.

If you are contemplating an MBO or perhaps an acquisition, get in touch. We know the market and have the experience to help you.

Jim Akrill
Jim Akrill
Corporate Finance Partner
Tel: 01254 679131