5 “Strategic” Ways to Sell Your Company

Did you see the news that Facebook has recently acquired Internet messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion? It represents the largest-ever acquisition of an Internet company in history.

WhatsApp is a pearl for sure. The messaging service allows users to avoid text-messaging charges by moving texts across the Internet instead of the mobile phone carrier networks. This can save people who travel, or who live in emerging markets, hundreds of dollars a year, which is why WhatsApp is adding one million new users per day. In addition, Facebook is forecasting that it will sell billions of dollars worth of additional advertising space because of this.

I recently began helping a client engage in the very same thing and the discoveries are astonishing; client acquisition growth, strategic alliance opportunities, additional income from current offerings. The surprise came to both of us and only confirmed what a right time it is to sell.

Both of these scenarios represent the definition of a strategic acquisition. Most acquisitions run a predictable pattern of industry norms, but a strategic can pay a significant premium for your business because they are looking at your business for what it is worth in their hands. Rather than forecasting out your future profits and estimating what that cash is worth in today’s dollars, a strategic is calculating the economic benefit of grafting your business onto theirs.

There can be many strategic reasons why a big company might want to buy yours. Here are a few to consider:

1. To control their supply chain

In 2011, Starbucks announced it had acquired Evolution Fresh, one of their providers of juice drinks, for $30 million. Now Starbucks is no longer beholden to one of its suppliers.

2. To give their sales people something else in their briefcase

Also in 2011, AOL announced the acquisition of The Huffington Post for $315 million, even though HuffPo had just turned its first modest profit on paper. AOL wanted to give its advertising sales people more inventory to sell and HuffPo had 26 million unique visitors a month.

3. To make their cash cow product look sexier

Microsoft bought Skype for $8.5 billion dollars even though Skype was losing money. The good folks in Redmond must have assumed they could sell more Windows, Office and Xbox by integrating Skype into everything they already sell.

4. To enter a new geographic market

Herman Miller paid $50 million to acquire China’s POSH Office Systems in order to get a beachhead into the world’s fastest growing market for office furniture.

5. To get a hold of your employees

Facebook reportedly acquired Internet start-up Hot Potato for $10 million, largely to get hold of the talented developers working at the company. Most acquisitions are done for rational reasons where an acquirer agrees to pay today for the rights to your future stream of cash. You may, however, be able to get a significant premium for your company if you can figure out how much it is worth in someone else’s hands.

Do you know what your worth?

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