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    Sunday 18 August 2019

    Due diligence heats up in the post-Brexit world

    The expanding role of financial due diligence following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.

    The UK’s decision to exit the European Union shocked the business community and left many wondering how their business and growth strategies would be affected. While the exact outcome of Article 50, once triggered, is subject to intense speculation in the media, it is clear that the due diligence process will need to report on some additional areas.

    Re-examine EBITDA and adjust accordingly

    In the majority of due diligence assignments, quality of earnings is a key consideration for the acquirer. This usually involves analysing EBITDA (a company’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) and removing any one-off income or expenditure so that a true picture of the underlying earnings can be identified. In a post-Brexit environment it becomes even more critical to understand what adjustments need to be made to EBITDA. For example, the heightened volatility of foreign exchange (forex) movements in comparison to GBP may lead to more extreme forex differences in reported earnings through changes in sales prices, cost of goods sold or on revaluation of financial instruments. Due consideration will need to be given as to how the gains or losses should be treated and whether they mask underlying trends in the business.

    It is possible that in future, a range of EU legislation will no longer apply in the UK and this could result in a higher cost base. For example, labour costs may increase if access to migrant workers is restricted or tariffs/duties are increased.

    Get a grip on the operational implications

    Further to the financial impact of Brexit, the operational effects will need to be considered. Where the target in a transaction uses a skilled European workforce, has suppliers or customers from outside the UK or is subject to tariffs or trading agreements it will be important to understand what the impact to the business will be if these relationships can no longer operate in the way they did previously. Suppliers and funders could use Brexit as an opportunity to renegotiate prices when arrangements are up for renewal and therefore it is important that all key contracts are reviewed as part of the due diligence process – this can fall to either the legal or financial due diligence providers. If UK businesses assess EU membership to be a key benefit to their business then they may need to review their corporate structure and group arrangements. It may even prove necessary to set up a subsidiary within the EU and channel their business through that entity.

    The risk factors affecting businesses in the post-Brexit world are becoming increasingly diverse and complex. More worryingly, these factors are subject to change. It is therefore imperative that due diligence reports are scoped and agreed by all parties in advance and include a careful assessment of the quality of both current and projected earnings.

    For more information, contact:
    Stephen Drew or Natalie Stacey
    Smith & Williamson, UK
    T: +44 (0)20 7131 4056
    E: stephen.drew@smithandwilliamson.com
    T: +44 (0)20 7131 8293
    E: natalie.stacey@smithandwilliamson.com


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