Turnaround Finance – Solution by Vultures or Angels?

An injection of turnaround finance involves saving a potentially insolvent company from irreversible insolvency and returning the company to a stable financial and operational position. The objective is to achieve this whilst maximising creditors’ interests and the interests of employees, managers and shareholders. Popularised by such media productions as Dragon’s Den (starting in Japan, now exported to the USA and UK), private wealth may be granted where the investor believes there is a future for the business. This article deals with turnaround finance for both under-performing businesses and businesses that are either insolvent or potentially insolvent.

The Progress Path

Turnarounds are achieved by a combination of financial, crisis management, restructuring and insolvency skills. The first step is to determine why the company is in the state it is. Realistically, is there anything that can be done to reverse the trend. Analysis is the key to really get into the problem. The analysis will resemble the three legged stool approach. The ‘legs’ vary, but essentially the analysis will get into these three areas: possibilities for restructure, viability and management

Restructure

Even a formal restructure involving insolvency doesn’t have to conclude the company. Many companies have found that this experience has forced a re-think of the company mission and a focus of action. But the majority of turnaround finance initiatives result in informal restructuring which is generally better for creditors, customers, employees, banks and shareholders. The restructure may necessitate job loss and lean arrangements with creditors. It may involve closing some facilities to reduce overhead or consolidating divisions to eliminate duplicate administrative functions. It might be necessary to sell off underperforming divisions of the company and outsource some functions to other parts of the world with less expensive labour rates. Viability This is the ‘leg’ that varies, sometimes it’s in the guise of the finance package. But whatever finance is required, whatever the state of the company and it’s creditors – is the company viable? Does it have a sustainable market? Does it have a future for it’s goods or services? If it’s a new business in something like internet technology, the answer to this question may not be straightforward and need significant analysis and business instinct. For older industries the past history of similar ideas will help greatly.

Management

Of all issues involved in the turnaround, the most difficult is getting the company to recognise deficiencies in management. Weaker members of the management team need to be replaced and this is very difficult for the board to be objective about. The management of any company do not want to know that their company is struggling because of the obvious implication of where decisions are made resulting in the problem. Many management teams won’t accept that they need help until the last moment – but the best help is the help administered early. The resulting action may have to be decisive and definite, a.k.a brutal. ConclusionThe most famous example of a turnaround success is Canary Wharf in London that had serious financial problems but is now one of the major world financial centres. Sadly this example involved formal restructuring which meant insolvency, then to rise from the ashes. Most companies can avoid this by excellent services of turnaround finance companies. These entities can rise to be major players in their market and can thank the time when they had to call in extra experience along with their turnaround finance.

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