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TheStreet Open House

Small Firm M&A Set to Pick Up in 2011

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The current economic reboot has industry experts expecting this to be a good year for small-firm mergers and acquisitions.

People who held off on selling their businesses over the past few years are expected to come back to the market to take advantage of improved economic conditions and an increase in buyers.

"Based on our conversations with business sellers, brokers and buyers, we believe that stable businesses with appropriate price expectations will likely receive quality offers from prospective buyers if they come on the market during the next 12 months," said Mike Handelsman, group general manager of BizBuySell.com and its affiliates, in a February survey conducted by the online marketplace for businesses for sale.

The tough financing environment remains the most common factor preventing business transactions from closing, followed by continued high seller expectations, according to the survey.

Ken Ducey, President of Fairfield Capital, which provides strategic advisory services to small and midsized firms, spoke with TheStreet this week on the state of small-firm M&A.

Is now a good time to sell a business?
Ducey: On both sides you've got a lot of desire. On the buyer side there are a number of people out there with money, whether it is corporations, private equity or other types of investors -- obviously strategic investors. On the seller side you certainly have a lot of companies that thought about getting out two or three years ago but, due to the economic conditions, held off, as well as business owners who had planned on selling now. So there is certainly a lot of supply out there.

The issue really comes to the valuation and who is going to bend first. There are a lot of sellers out there who say, "I'm not going to sell right now because I know I'm not going to get the right valuation." There is no way to time the market. It's a much more fluid market. Business sales take a long time. There is no such thing as really apples-to-apples in companies.

Think about what's in it for you. If I'm a business owner and I own 80% of a company and I know I need X to retire, am I going to get X? If I can get X and I don't want to continue with the company, well then, yes, it's a good time to sell. If I can't get X, well then, I better start looking at the company and figuring out ways to make it better and more valuable. Those factors are much more important than what's going on in the overall M&A place.

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