19 dezembro 2008

Avaliação em Tempo de Crise

O texto a seguir mostra a dificuldade de fazer avaliação em tempos de crise. Muitos modelos de avaliação dependem da estimativa da receita (incluem aqui os múltiplos como o Ebitda ou ate mesmo a projeção do fluxo de caixa futuro, que geralmente parte da receita). Com a crise, a estimativa de receita de muitos setores tornou-se pessimista, com reflexos no resultado final.

Mas existe algo que o texto não considera: o efeito psicológico da avaliação em momentos de crise. Se no período que antecedeu os analistas apresentaram projeções otimistas demais, neste momento projetar cenários otimistas é desestimulado. Os analistas preferem agora errar para menos, fazendo estimativas mais pessimistas dos investimentos.

A magical mystery tour over private equity valuations
By Jennifer Hughes

How can you value a private equity investment? Let me count the ways.

Or rather, let the industry come up with the answers as that is exactly what groups are struggling to do now as they face year-end reports to investors.

Like other sectors facing valuation issues, the discussions have centred around "fair value", or the use of market prices where possible. In the private equity universe, this isn't that often. Without market prices, the firms then descend through a sliding scale of measuring systems.

Blackstone, the US giant, helpfully lists in its latest quarterly report the range of methods it most uses, including projected net earnings, multiples of earnings measures (such as ebitda), valuations for comparable companies, discounted cash flow method and/or capitalisation rates analysis (for property investments) and for some holdings, cost, or the price paid.

3i, the UK-listed group, even breaks its portfolio down by valuation method, among which it reports a quarter at cost, almost a third on some earnings-based measure and "other", including discounted cash flow, at a further 20 per cent.

The problem for the industry is that all of these just got harder and they weren't straightforward to begin with.

Any valuation involves making assumptions about cash flows, primarily based on revenues. With the economy falling rapidly into a worse downturn than had been expected just a couple of months ago, it has become harder to weigh up what is truly an unlikely Armageddon scenario and what is actually reasonable.

In 3i's half-yearly results (to September 30) the value of its investments assessed on an earnings multiple dropped £194m from last year. Total valuation losses came to £414m.

It is a fair bet that Blackstone, 3i and others will struggle to use public or private market transactions as a measuring stick since there are very few of these.

The market volatility has pretty much rendered any transactions of just a few months ago as virtually unusable.

Discounted cash flow models depend on all sorts of assumptions that just became trickier. Alongside revenue expectations, cost of capital is one of the most important calculations and is likely to have risen sharply.

There are other assumptions within that, such as the risk-free rate. MBA students are usually taught to use a conservative standard measure for the risk-free rate such as 8 per cent. Investment banks and others have been using something much closer to 5 per cent or lower.

AAA-rated government yields are far lower than that right now as interest rates fall. But is that a good basis on which to base forecasts given the glut of government borrowing coming soon that will push up yields? All these points, and many others, have to be thought through by each firm and for each investment.

The wider point to take from all this is summed up in the last line of the Blackstone paragraph summarised above: "These valuation methodologies involve a significant degree of management judgment."

To swing this point around to the danger from an investor point of view: "There's still some misconception that there is some magic number that's the right one - and there isn't," says Nick Rea, partner in PwC's advisory practice.

Private equity, with its lack of market pricing at the best of times, is an extreme example of the issues a broad range of companies will face this coming year.
Any valuation, unless it is for some heavily traded security such as a blue chip stock or a Treasury bond, is going to involve assumptions that produce a range of valuations for that asset, reduced to a single figure for presentation on the balance sheet.

Worried private equity investors, like their counterparts in listed companies, are demanding more explanation of the assumptions behind the final number. Any company or investment firm would be wise to produce as much as they can - and as clearly as they can - to help alleviate the jitters.

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