Twice as Many Firms Plan Asset Sales in 2016

Divestments are being used mostly to grow core businesses and invest in new products, an EY study finds.
Katie Kuehner-HebertJanuary 29, 2016

Significantly more companies are planning to divest assets to recommit to core businesses or fund innovations to keep up with changing consumer preferences, according to EY’s 2016 Global Corporate Divestment Study.

Roughly half (49%) of the corporate and private equity executives surveyed by EY are planning to divest within the next two years, compared with just 20% who said so in last year’s survey. Only 5% of companies do not expect to make any divestments in the next two years, compared to 56% in 2015.

More than two-thirds (70%) said they plan to use the proceeds from divestments to grow their core business, invest in new products and markets, and acquire a complementary business. Among companies that completed a divestment last year, 39% re-invested funds back into the core business, 20% invested in new products, markets or geographies, and 11% made an acquisition.

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“Divestments are a strategic route to generate long-term growth,” Pip McCrostie, EY’s global vice chair for transaction advisory services, said in a news release. “They are increasingly being used to fund new opportunities, to stay ahead of changes in consumer preferences and to drive innovation.”

“Astute reallocation of capital and a disciplined review of portfolio assets will be a priority in 2016,” she added.

Companies that used their last divestment to fund an acquisition were 62% more likely to have experienced a higher-than-expected valuation multiple on the remaining business post-sale than a company that used the funds to pay down debt, according to the survey.

For companies that divested 10% of their enterprise value, their stock prices outperformed the public index by 612 basis points more than they did in the one-year period pre-sale. For those that divested 20%, their stock prices outperformed the previous year by 1,104 basis points.

“With markets rewarding divestments that represent bold portfolio decisions and strong strategic rationale, all signs point to a strong 2016 ahead,” said Paul Hammes, EY’s global divestiture advisory services leader. “That said, maximizing the value of a divestment is firmly rooted in having an in-depth understanding of the business’s value. Too often, sellers leave money on the table, particularly when they are enticed by unsolicited offers.”