THE pandemic has affected businesses in different ways during 2020 and the festive break could provide the opportunity for business owners to reflect on what may have changed forever.

Examples of this change may be: how/where we work and hold business meetings, the nature and frequency of commuting/business travel, real estate requirements (how much space is needed and the location), workforce planning/flexibility/skills, the level of capital expenditure and the criticality of IT as an essential service at the heart of all business management.

Some owners may also consider whether 2021 could be a good time to seek an exit or business sale, having navigated a very challenging 2020. This is going to be an emotional decision, crystallising your equity value now into a certain cash value. It may be driven partly by the assessment of future growth opportunities, your loyalty to customers, suppliers, operating partners and the workforce.

Other considerations may be the degree of owner fatigue, the viability of succession planning, the appetite for and timing of investment decisions, and the availability of debt and equity capital to fund such deals.

Having just completed a deal for a Yorkshire software business with an overseas buyer, I know there has been a viable mergers and aqquisitions (M&A) market during the final quarter of 2020. The debt and equity capital providers we work with in Yorkshire continue to be supportive of this M&A market as we go into 2021.

We believe the first few months of 2021 will be an opportunity for business owners to exit, as optimism about the global economic recovery continues to build, supported by viable vaccines, a new occupant in the White House and the prospect of more policy stimulus if it is required.

Record stock markets across much of the globe are supporting exit deal multiples in the UK across most sectors, and further cross border deals are possible as UK markets are at historically low multiples. However, possible headwinds may lie ahead for business owners, such as the content of a Brexit trade deal cobbled together at the eleventh hour and mooted changes to the taxation of capital.

If you are considering the future of your business, perhaps thinking about succession or sale, call Chris McCourt on 0191 434 0830 or email chris.mccourt@armstrongwatson.co.uk.