Key considerations when acquiring a company in administration

Purchasing a company that has entered administration might appear to be an attractive opportunity due to the lowered price, active pursuit of a sale, and the retention of liabilities with the seller. However, there are several critical factors to evaluate before making such a decision.

In the current economic climate, cash-rich entrepreneurs may find this a unique opportunity to acquire companies in administration, benefiting from reduced competition and renewed consumer confidence. In fact, the best value deals are often those completed during times of economic stress.

Nevertheless, it is crucial to approach this decision with caution. Here are four essential points to consider when buying a business in administration.

Assess compatibility
Attractive pricing alone shouldn't drive your decision to acquire a distressed business. Managing a struggling company can be incredibly challenging, particularly without prior experience in that sector.

If the industry is unfamiliar or uninteresting to you, you may quickly become overwhelmed and face the prospect of the company languishing further. Thoroughly evaluate whether the company aligns with your interests and expertise. Develop a solid turnaround plan and seek advice from industry experts to ensure the acquisition is a strategic fit, not just a bargain.

Investigate the reasons for failure
Understanding why the company failed is essential. This insight can help you identify necessary changes and potential pitfalls.

Review the company's financial history and engage with administrators to uncover specific issues. Recognising previous mistakes provides valuable lessons and helps you avoid similar errors, potentially drastically increasing your chances of a successful turnaround.

Conduct thorough due diligence
Performing due diligence is critical when acquiring a distressed business. It helps you understand the company’s current state and underlying issues. While the timeframe in which to perform due diligence will be tightened, a keen focus on the relevant issues can help to ensure that you still gain a solid overview of the business.

Hire a professional due diligence expert to examine the company’s assets, supply chains, contracts, and reputation. This comprehensive assessment can reveal potential deal-breakers and guide your turnaround strategy. Remember, administrators won’t provide warranties, so thorough investigation is essential to mitigate risks.

Evaluate the workforce
The existing workforce of a company in administration is often under significant stress, which can affect morale and productivity. Employees may be worried about their job security and disheartened by the company’s decline and potential redundancies.

Clearly and positively communicate your business strategy and vision to the employees to rebuild morale and ensure their support in revitalising the company. Additionally, be aware of legal obligations under the Transfer of Undertaking (Protection of Employment) (TUPE) regulations, which transfer employee contracts to the new owner. You will need to inform and consult with employees regarding contract changes and transfers.

Acquiring a company in administration presents both opportunities and challenges. Careful consideration of your interest in the business, understanding its failures, conducting detailed due diligence and effectively managing the workforce are crucial steps to ensuring a successful turnaround and securing an acquisition that delivers as much value as possible.