Unlocking value through divestitures

  • Share

Divestment programs were the strongest contributor to deal activity in Europe’s power and utilities sector during 2012. But are companies doing enough to drive real value from these transactions? Ian Whitlock reports.

The impact of the global financial crisis and significant capital investment programs has driven increased divestiture activity by many large utilities, in a bid to strengthen their balance sheets.

In Europe, during 2012, divestment and privatization programs emerged as the strongest contributors to deal activity. Power and utility companies were keen to restructure their portfolios in an effort to:

  • Reduce balance sheet debt levels
  • Free up capital for new investment and deployment in emerging markets and technologies

Disposing of some assets that are no longer aligned to the business strategy can be an opportunity to refresh the business, pay down debt and focus on investments in a company’s core area.

But too often, while companies establish rigorous M&A management, the importance of divestitures as a means of raising, reallocating and preserving capital is sometimes overlooked.

Power and utility companies that are too eager to simply dispose of assets may rush through the sale of a business or asset, leaving value on the table or overlooking other strategic opportunities.

Creating value in a tight market

A value-focused divestiture process begins with proactive portfolio management. Utilities should review their businesses and assets against:

  • Strategic goals
  • Performance metrics
  • Industry benchmarks

This allows for an accurate current valuation of each component and helps identify divestiture candidates for each asset or group of assets.

Once appropriate divestiture candidates are identified, the challenge for power and utility companies is to make sure the deal is completed successfully. In our experience, many businesses are focusing too much on the transaction sales process and paying less attention to what is required to ensure real value is derived from the deal.

Two key processes will improve the chances of a divestiture realizing value:

Tell the equity story: Most power and utility companies would benefit from spending more time preparing the story that attracts potential new investors into the business. In essence, preparing this story means viewing the sale from the buyer’s perspective.

A compelling equity story will include:

  • Comprehensive and consistent data on business strategies and operational performance
  • A well-considered, robust and credible business plan, that can demonstrate in detail how management will derive further value from the business in the short and medium term
  • A company’s strengths, its value and growth potential

Focus on the carve-out: It is important to ensure adequate attention is paid to properly separating the divested asset from its parent business.

Companies will need to assess the services currently being shared by both businesses, such as information technology and human resources, and determine the logistics of the separation and potential financial impact.

Developing a detailed stand-alone business model that shows “what’s in and what’s out” of the transaction will enable buyers to value the business, while helping sellers rationalize their own value chain.

Appealing to financial investors

Over the last 12 months, more financial buyers have become involved in power and utility divestitures, with several infrastructure and pension funds investing in assets with predictable and regulated cash flows and revenues.

Apart from the preparations outlined above, a power and utility company can enhance its transactions with financial investors by building a clear picture of the regulatory regime under which the divested business operates. If regulatory obligations are stable, the asset will be more appealing to buyers.

Financial investors interested in power and utility divestitures are typically pension funds and infrastructure funds that value long-term, low-risk returns. The equity story told to these buyers should therefore include relevant information regarding long-term capital expenditure requirements and opportunities for the potential investor to improve the operational efficiency of the business.

Prepare early for success

Successful power and utility companies view divestitures as a crucial element of their overall capital agenda. But the key to obtaining optimum value through these deals is adequate preparation.

When crafting a divestiture planning framework, companies must begin early to articulate clear strategic plans and consider a multitude of factors at play during any transaction.

Careful preparation that focuses on building a strong equity story and clear carve-out models will help companies extract greater value, increase speed to close and minimize disruptions to the core business.

How we can help

We have supported many of the world’s largest utilities through divestiture programs aimed at optimizing portfolios, unlocking value and creating opportunities. Our teams work with companies through the entire process, from the initial considerations around a disposal, to divestiture preparations, including building an equity story and developing carve-out models, to successful completion of the transaction.

For more information

Divesting for value Read more about essential considerations for a successful divestiture in Divesting for value.