M&A practice in emerging countries differs from more mature economies, although transaction management and valuation tools (e.g. DCF, comparables) share a common basic methodology. In China, India or Brazil for example, differences affect the formation of asset price and on the structuring of deals. Profitability expectations (e.g. shorter time horizon, no terminal value due to low visibility) and risk represented by a discount rate must both be properly adjusted.In a M&A perspective, differences between emerging and more mature economies include: i) a less developed system of property rights, ii) less reliable financial information, iii) cultural differences in negotiations, and iv) a higher degree of competition for the best targets.

  • Property rights: the capacity to transfer property rights and legally enforce the protection of such rights after payment may be questionable. Property transfer through the Stock Purchase Agreement can be imperfect (e.g. no real warranties) and even reversible (e.g. one of the multiple administrative authorizations needed not granted after closing) leading to situations where costly remedial actions may be necessary. When the rule of law is not established, corruption can be a rampant problem.
  • Information:documentation delivered to a buyer may be scarce with a limited level of reliability. As an example, double sets of accounting are common practice and blur the capacity to form a correct judgment. Running valuation on such basis bears the risk to lead to erroneous conclusions. Therefore, building a reliable knowledge base on observable facts and on the result of focused due diligences, such as recurring profitability measured by EBITDA, is a good starting point.
  • Negotiation: “Yes” may not be synonym that the parties have reached an agreement. Getting immediately to the point may not be considered appropriate in some cultures and even considered rude. The negotiations may continue to the last minute, sometimes even after the deal has been officially closed, if the seller keeps some leverage, like a minority stake, in the divested entity. Therefore, establishing a strong local business network before starting acquisitions is usually a prerequisite to get to know trustable parties to deal with and have allies.
  • Competition: the race to acquire the best companies in an emerging economy can generate a high degree of competition and inflate transaction prices, as a consequence of limited available targets. This may push for poor management decisions; before investment, time is always needed to build a reliable set of information on the competitive landscape.

If not properly dealt with, these factors will likely have adverse consequences on return-on-investment (ROI) and create difficulties in day-to-day business operations. It is advisable that M&A tools designed for mature economies are not directly used in emerging markets without some adjustment. M&A teams need time to adapt and understand the key operating differences between their home environment and their new market.

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