In part one and two of our articles on buying and selling a business we looked at both the important issues and what the agreement for sale and purchase should cover. In part three, we will consider the impact of Covid-19 and how it has affected the buying and selling process and further points that need to be considered during these unprecedented times. Whether you are considering selling or purchasing a business, or you have just started the process, the following should be taken into consideration:
In part one, we explored the importance of due diligence and key questions that should be asked. The effects of Covid-19 should not alter your approach to carrying out due diligence, in fact it may be that a more rigorous approach is taken by buyers to understand the implications Covid-19 has had on the business and how it would fare if another situation like this were to happen again. When carrying out due diligence, both seller and purchaser should be mindful that more time may be required to undertake and complete the process due to the restrictions in place, as the ability to obtain information such as important documentation or carrying out physical inspections may not be possible right away.
Material Adverse Change Clauses
As we are in the midst of the unknown, agreements between buyer and seller will be subject to greater scrutiny and negotiation. The inclusion of material adverse change (MAC) clauses in an agreement is likely to be of particular interest, especially to a buyer. A MAC clause is used to reduce risk and uncertainty for buyers during the period between the agreement and the date the deal closes. Such clauses give the right for the buyer to walk away from a deal. For a seller, taking the current climate into consideration the inclusion of such a clause should be drafted carefully, thinking about what is considered to be a change and looking to the future and the potential of a similar situation occurring again.
As a buyer, if you are obtaining finance from a third party such as bank, it may take longer and become more difficult. In these uncertain times, banks may be reluctant to lend or may seek additional requirements are satisfied in order to obtain approval. Therefore, it important that the sale and purchase documentation covers the risks that are associated with lending during this time. For example, the seller may want to include a break fee, if finance is unable to be obtained by the buyer. Where a buyer may want the ability to walk away from the deal and have a financing out condition. It will be up the parties to balance the risk and reach an agreement that they are both comfortable with.
In this current climate, sellers may be reluctant to agree to warranties about the state of the business, as the long term effects of Covid-19 on a business may not be known for some time. While for buyers it may be that they look at additional situation-specific warranties in relation to this pandemic. Warranties will be subject to robust negations even more so than before, therefore again, it will come down to the parties being able to find the right balance in terms risk.
The uncertainty for many businesses during this time may see the inclusion of other conditions in a sale and purchase agreement. Such conditions may relate to maintaining current suppliers or current employees.
As the restrictions ease, many are still trying to navigate their way through the unknown. It is difficult to know the long term implications of Covid-19 and effects that it will have had on the businesses that survived the lockdown period. Therefore, it will be important for those looking to buy a business to ensure they have done their ‘homework’. While sellers will need to be upfront and ensure they are covered if a situation like this were to ever occur again.
We often help both buyers or sellers of businesses and in this unique context would be happy to talk about your situation to make sure the agreements work well.
This article is not a substitute for legal advice and you should contact your lawyer about your specific situation. We would be happy to assist in your journey. Please feel free to contact Steven Moe at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kris Morrison at email@example.com should you require assistance.