M&A for SMEs: "Selling a company is like a journey"

M&A for SMEs: "Selling a company is like a journey"

If the successor for the company does not come from your own family, it can be difficult to search for a suitable buyer single-handedly. As the leading Swiss bank for M&A, Credit Suisse mediates and assists buyers and sellers.

The baby boomer generation is reaching retirement age – for an above-­average number of established Swiss SMEs this means that a successor must be found in the coming years. “The timing could hardly be better for it – we are currently in a seller’s market: The necessary liquidity is there, but the attractive investment options are limited,” says Heinz Hasler, Head of Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) Mid Market Investment Banking Switzerland at Credit Suisse. He is responsible for medium-sized enterprises across Switzerland. His team advises business owners in the worldwide search for a succession solution. “When an owner comes to us who is willing to sell, the first step is to analyze the situation,” explains Heinz Hasler. After that, his team ar­ranges a company valuation and checks whether it corresponds with the owner’s estimation, a business plan is developed, an information document is created, and lastly the procedure is established.

“The timing could hardly be better – we are currently in a seller’s market.”

The question of potential buyers is important. Who comes into consideration: A strategic investor from the industry? A family company? A financial sponsor? Or is their own management interested? Heinz Hasler recommends being open in the first phase and including various potential applicants in the structured selling process. “Some owners have fixed ideas, and as a family firm for example, they can only envisage a successor in the same category. But in the end maybe the financial sponsor wins out after all, because he was able to convince the family during the process,” he explains. Certainly the sale of a company, which is often the life’s work of the seller, can be an emotional event. In this situation the advisor’s experience is all the more important. Credit Suisse is a leader in the area of M&A transactions in Switzerland. With its international activity, it has a huge global network through which suitable buyers can be approached. Additionally, it has the necessary experience and expertise to persistently negotiate the optimum value and best solution. However, for the seller, the highest price offered is seldom the determining factor for choosing a buyer. Their strategy is at least as important: Will the company become part of a group of companies or will the Swiss jobs be retained? Heinz Hasler clarifies: “We try to offer the client a differentiated basis, but the final decision is ultimately up to them.”