Posted on: November 10th, 2023
Ambitious roll-up acquirers rightly focus on acquisition financing availability in order drive their speed of their acquisition growth strategy. At early stages, they set an acquisition pace tantamount to multiple deals representing a large quantity of acquired revenue in a year. Acquisition financing is the fuel that funds their scale-up, as the prices paid usually far exceed their ability to fund internally. The need to grow quickly is embodied in the DNA of every roll-up sponsor in the history of middle market corporate finance.
Yet, sometimes due to the rate of acquiring and the intensity of operational focus, sponsors lose track of the importance of post-closing performance. Multiple deals can easily underperform relative to their pre-closing acquisition financing lender expectations. This usually manifests a due diligence oversight or operational integration lapse on the part of the buyer. Due to the fast pace of acquiring, this lapse, whatever its root cause, permeates each deal closed. This leads to a collision between acquisition financing expectations and post-closing performance.
How Acquisition Financing Lenders Work
When things move too fast, problems tend not to be isolated unto one deal, but get embedded across the entire portfolio, creating a major earnings headache for the buyer and the lender. This causes the acquisition financing lender to slow down and restrict future funding until problems are solved and the Company resets to a profitable course. The slowdown feedback is anathema to the roll-up sponsor who sees strategic considerations as paramount and financial underperformance as fleeting and secondary. When this happens, the sponsor has a few choices. They can slow down, maintain speed and find a new lender, or mediate a short-term turnaround plan with the lender that will unlock capital more gradually.
Each of these options are legitimate avenues for the sponsor with the best course depending on industry forces and operational turnaround probability. If the industry is in an advanced stage of consolidation and the window is shutting, it may be best to find a new lender and fix the operational problems simultaneously. If the industry is in an early stage of consolidation and the sponsor has time, it may be best to slow down and ensure that you have the right operational resources in place before you resume your acquisition growth. The right decision depends on each specific situation and requires careful consideration of the acquisition financing lender’s feedback.