Insights & Info

Insights > M&A Terms

M&A Terms

By Generational Equity

m & a terms

As is true of most industries, the M&A industry has developed M&A terms, much of it confusing to uninformed business owners. In this article we thought we would demystify some of these terms so that you will have a greater comfort level when discussing the idea of actually selling your company. This will be especially true if you are considering selling your business without professional representation. Knowledge of these key terms will be critical.

Key M&A Terms

Adjusted (Recast) Book Value – The book value that results after one or more asset or liability amounts are added, deleted, or changed from the respective book amounts via the recasting process (see recasting below).

Adjusted (Recast) Earnings – The earnings that result from the adjustment of historical financial statements reflecting items that are unrelated to the ongoing business via the recasting process described below.

Asset-Based Valuation Approach – A method of determining the value of a business’ assets and/or equity interest using one or more methods based directly on the market value of the assets of the business less liabilities.

Asset Sale – A form of acquisition where the seller of a corporation agrees to sell all or certain assets and, in some cases, the liabilities of a company to a purchaser. The corporate entity is not transferred.

Book Value – The difference between total assets (net of depreciation, depletion, and amortization) and total liabilities of an enterprise as they appear on the balance sheet.

Business Valuation – The process of arriving at an opinion or determination of the economic value of a business or enterprise.

Confidential Business Review – A book containing a detailed analysis of a business and its growth opportunities. Also called an Offering Memorandum.

Confidential Business Profile – A brief profile of a business that is used to solicit buyer interest. It is usually a one- to two-page synopsis of the Confidential Business Review. It is also called a Profile Letter or a Teaser.

Confidentiality Agreement – This document is signed by potential buyers and it requires them to keep the information contained in the Offering Memorandum and ensuing discussions completely confidential. This document is signed BEFORE the Offering Memorandum is sent.

Deal Structure – The allocation of the consideration paid for a business. Components could include cash, notes, stock, consulting agreements, and earn-outs. Many non-cash deal structure components have tax benefits to sellers.

Discount Rate – A rate of return used to convert a monetary sum, payment or receivable in the future into present value.

Due Diligence – The assessment of the benefits and the liabilities of a proposed acquisition by inquiring into all relevant aspects of the past, present, and future of the business to be purchased. Due diligence occurs subsequent to the Letter of Intent (see below).

EBITDA – Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. It is typically the number used by most evaluation firms when valuing an enterprise.

Earn-out – The portion of the purchase price that is contingent on future performance. It is payable to the sellers only when certain pre-defined levels of sales or income are achieved in the years after the acquisition.

Enterprise Value – The value of a business, using any number of valuation approaches, as an integral operating unit rather than as a collection of individual assets and liabilities.

Financial Buyer – A buyer interested in a target based solely on the financial return of the investment rather than any strategic or synergistic reasons.

Intangible Assets – The assets of a business that have value but are non-physical and not shown on the balance sheet. Some common ones include patents, software, depreciated assets, contracts, and experienced employees. 

Letter of Intent – A written agreement that defines the respective preliminary understandings of the parties about to engage in contractual negotiations on a transaction. Items covered typically include price, terms, and conditions.

Market Approach of Valuation – A general way of determining a value of a business using one or more methods that compare the subject to similar businesses that have been recently sold.

Net to Owner – The amount realized by the owners of a business from its sale. Usually it is the enterprise value of the business less debt retained in the business, plus the net assets and liabilities not included in the sale and retained by the owners.

Recasting – Also known as financial statement adjusting, recasting eliminates items that are unrelated to the ongoing business from the historical financial presentation. These can include superfluous, excessive, or discretionary expenses and non-recurring revenue and expenses. It is a critical piece of any business valuation and not doing it accurately is one of the five common mistakes made by business owners. 

Stock Sale – A form of acquisition whereby all or a portion of the stock in a corporation is sold to the purchaser.

Synergistic Buyer – The opposite of a Financial Buyer, a Synergistic Buyer is one willing to pay a premium above the economic value of a business based on additional growth and profit opportunities that can be achieved through the benefits of consolidation. Intangible Assets play a key role in this premium.

Term Sheet – A preliminary, non-binding agreement setting forth the basic terms and conditions under which an investment will be made. The term sheet usually precedes the Letter of Intent.

Obviously, this list is not comprehensive and contains only a small part of the overall M&A lexicon. If you would like to learn more about the process of selling your company, I would invite you to attend one of our free, no obligation M&A workshops. It may be the most important business workshop that you have ever attended.

Remember you are probably only going to get one chance to sell your company. Learn as much as you can before you start the process to save you the expense of doing it incorrectly.

Carl Doerksen is the Director of Corporate Development at Generational Equity.

Make an informed decision

The best decisions in life are informed decisions. We release educational business insights like this every week. Subscribe to make sure you don’t miss the latest news, views and analysis.


Success, you have been added to our list.

I wanted to write you a quick letter to express our appreciation and our delight on the outcome of helping us through the process of our recent sale. We are very happy with the end result, and are very happy to be able to move forward with all of our future growth plans.
Terry D. Wickman, President, Keytroller
Bruce and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Generational Equity for assigning Musa Jagne to our transaction. In Bruce’s words, “Musa did one hell of a job for us!”
Karen S. Williams, CFO, BW Manufacturing
Generational Equity’s assistance was invaluable in compiling and marketing our business.
Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
Greetings Mike. Thank you for the captivating and compelling presentation you made at the Phoenix presentation last week. Over many years in business yours was the most informative and well-presented presentation, on any subject, that I have ever attended! Your energy and enthusiasm combined with your concise and captivating support of your positions with easily understood examples and data was compelling.
Pete L.
Your wisdom and experience were invaluable to me during this once-in-a-lifetime transaction.
Ralph Noblin, President of Noblin & Associates
Michael worked tirelessly, He followed every lead meticulously and urgently to make sure nothing was missed.
Robert Evans, President and CEO of Mealtracker Dietary Software
Tom Staszak is one of the most professional people I have dealt with in my last forty years of business. You’ve got a great group of people and you have built a truly professional organization.
Michael J Polarek, President, Paragon Packaging
We are extremely pleased with the way Generational Equity handled the sale of our company. Your associates, Tom and Chris, did an outstanding job of getting us (me) through the process.
Michael J Polarek, President, Paragon Packaging
We were happy to see the interest in our company and what we cherished has not just a valuable company but an important company to the communities we served in.
Larry Moore, Owner, A Company Portable Restrooms
We will highly recommend Generational Equity and Musa Jagne to any business owner about to embark on the same process.
Karen S. Williams, CFO, BW Manufacturing
I couldn’t have asked for a better team than Michael and Deborah. We couldn’t have done it without them.
Robert Evans, President and CEO of Mealtracker Dietary Software
We thank you Eric and Generational Equity making our dream come true.
Larry Moore, Owner, A Company Portable Restrooms
We are very happy with the end result, and are very happy to be able to move forward with all of our future growth plans.
Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
The process was much more involved than I expected and your help, experience and advice was a big factor in making the negotiations go as smoothly as possible.
Terry D. Wickman, President, Keytroller
Generational Equity educated and informed us – so that we could be on the upside of a good decision (to sell).
Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
Thank you again for all your guidance and support. Any company will achieve what they intend, if they have you on their team!
Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
I must say that I have never worked with a more driven, competent and focused individual as Don Ho.
Jay Dinnison, Owner of Sharpe Mixers
Thanks again Phil and feel free to have a future client call me if they would like a referral. You are a true professional!
Andy Graham, Vice President, Modern Heating & Plumbing
We knew it would be a difficult task to have someone really understand our business and our market, prior to researching a possible buyer, so it was imperative that we found someone of your caliber, with definite proven experience in this area.
Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
I would like to thank you and your firm, Generational Equity, for being our valued advisors in our journey.
Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
I quickly recognized that Don was working for Sharpe Mixers above all else, and held our interests above others.
Jay Dinnison, Owner of Sharpe Mixers
The help you provided us during each step of this process made us feel very comfortable and confident we were selecting the right approach to transition our Company.
Andy Graham, Vice President, Modern Heating & Plumbing