Introduction to raising finance

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When a company is growing rapidly, for example when contemplating investment in capital equipment or an acquisition, its current financial resources may be inadequate. Few growing companies are able to finance their expansion plans from cash flow alone. They will therefore need to consider raising finance from other external sources. In addition, managers who are looking to buy-in to a business ("management buy-in" or "MBI") or buy-out (management buy-out" or "MBO") a business from its owners, may not have the resources to acquire the company. They will need to raise finance to achieve their objectives.

There are a number of potential sources of finance to meet the needs of a growing business or to finance an MBI or MBO:

- Existing shareholders and directors funds
- Family and friends
- Business angels
- Clearing banks (overdrafts, short or medium term loans)
- Factoring and invoice discounting
- Hire purchase and leasing
- Merchant banks (medium to longer term loans)
- Venture capital

A key consideration in choosing the source of new business finance is to strike a balance between equity and debt to ensure the funding structure suits the business.

The main differences between borrowed money (debt) and equity are that bankers request interest payments and capital repayments, and the borrowed money is usually secured on business assets or the personal assets of shareholders and/or directors. A bank also has the power to place a business into administration or bankruptcy if it defaults on debt interest or repayments or its prospects decline.

In contrast, equity investors take the risk of failure like other shareholders, whilst they will benefit through participation in increasing levels of profits and on the eventual sale of their stake. However in most circumstances venture capitalists will also require more complex investments (such as preference shares or loan stock) in additional to their equity stake.

The overall objective in raising finance for a company is to avoid exposing the business to excessive high borrowings, but without unnecessarily diluting the share capital. This will ensure that the financial risk of the company is kept at an optimal level.

Business Plan

Once a need to raise finance has been identified it is then necessary to prepare a business plan. If management intend to turn around a business or start a new phase of growth, a business plan is an important tool to articulate their ideas while convincing investors and other people to support it. The business plan should be updated regularly to assist in forward planning.

There are many potential contents of a business plan. The European Venture Capital Association suggest the following:

- Profiles of company founders directors and other key managers;
- Statistics relating to sales and markets;
- Names of potential customers and anticipated demand;
- Names of, information about and assessment of competitors;
- Financial information required to support specific projects (for example, major capital investment or new product development);
- Research and development information;
- Production process and sources of supply;
- Information on requirements for factory and plant;
- Magazine and newspaper articles about the business and industry;
- Regulations and laws that could affect the business product and process protection
(patents, copyrights, trademarks).

The challenge for management in preparing a business plan is to communicate their ideas clearly and succinctly. The very process of researching and writing the business plan should help clarify ideas and identify gaps in management information about their business, competitors and the market.
 

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