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Introducing Value-Based Finance
[A Transition from 'Accounting' to 'Economics']

Part one of a six part series

by Roy E. Johnson, Vice President, Technology Capital & Mergers, LLC

The movement from 'accounting' to 'economic' metrics is at the 'core' of value-based finance (VBF) driven by the fact that the 'real' profitability of a business is not always reflected in the traditional accounting measures that focus on net earnings. An example using a hypothetical firm Growthstar Inc. will illustrate the dilemma. The company has a 'CORE' business, expanded three years ago by the acquisition of 'NEWCO'. The purchase price was $55 million, financed with excess cash and new debt. 'Off balance sheet' leases of $15 million were assumed. Thus, the total investment was $70 million, none of which impacted the 'book' value of Growthstar Inc. stockholders' equity. Financial highlights of the three most recent historical years plus the current year will be presented, to provide a comparison of the 'accounting' versus 'economic' framework.

Exhibit 1 gives a tabular summary for the 'accounting' scenario, noting that year #3 is the most distant and year #1 is the most recent historical period. The 'NEWCO' deal was closed at the end of year #3. Thus, it had no effect on the company's 'operations' for year #3.

Exhibit 1

Has this acquisition benefited Growthstar's shareholders? Based on the 'accounting' scenario, the answer would seem to be a resounding 'yes'! Revenue has doubled and Net Income has grown nearly fourfold using year #3 as a 'base' through the current year. Return on Equity has almost doubled, from 12% to 22%, during this time period.

Under an 'economic' framework, however, the key indicators paint a somewhat different picture. The 'economic' scenario entails some important adjustments:

Exhibit 2 gives a tabular summary for the 'economic' scenario.

Exhibit 2

The highlights of Exhibit 2 are:

Whether the shareholders will benefit long-term from this acquisition will depend on the strategy and future profitability of 'NEWCO'. This year's economic profit is a good sign.

To conclude, 'accounting' metrics often do not provide good 'shareholder value' indicators. Thus, much of the business world is turning to 'economics' for 'value analysis'. Exhibit 3 gives a graphic portrayal of first profit growth rates, and second returns versus cost of capital. In the Returns versus Cost of Capital graph, the left bar (black) is distant year #3 return, the middle bar (striped) is current year return, and the right bar (gray) is cost of capital.

Exhibit 3

As future articles will discuss, accountings earnings and their growth have little correlation with stock market returns. One of the reasons is that 'accounting' has its origins in credit and liquidation analysis, not in valuation. Most valuation techniques are founded in cash flow based measures, and many successful investors use accounting-based results as a starting, not an ending, point. Thus, we introduce value-based finance with a transition from 'accounting' to 'economics' to set the stage for critical valuation perspectives and the proper application of VBF concepts and techniques.

Call Technology Capital & Mergers, LLC if you would like to learn more about our business valuations services. We provide simple business valuations such as a partner buy in or buyout valuation, fairness opinions on an offer to buy or sell a company, valuations to raise capital and valuations of early stage companies or technologies. We also offer more complex certified business valuations involving litigation or feasibility studies. In addition, we provide expert witness services to defend a business valuation.

Article © 2009 Technology Capital and Mergers, LLC