What is Due Diligence?
Due Diligence Definition: It is an exercise done to check the quality of an investment before committing funds to it. There are lots of claims that are made by an asset manager, a company founder, a real estate developer, or anyone else who is interested in selling the asset or a stake of it thereof. These claims need to be satisfactorily validated before the funds are committed to buying the asset or a part of it.
Due Diligence in Finance
Due diligence is a general term of analyzing the investment before committing the funds. Financial due diligence concerns with the assets that generate returns and are financial in nature like private or public companies, start-ups, hedge funds, real estate, and real estate funds.
What does due diligence consist of?
Due diligence for financial aspects validates the claims of the seller through a detailed study of the documentation supporting the sellers’ claims. The Due Diligence period depends on the size and the nature of the asset on which it is being performed. The speed at which the data is made available also impacts the Due Diligence period. A start-up which is a small set-up could be checked in say a few weeks’ time, whereas bigger corporates may take months before the exercise for the whole company is performed.
Due Diligence Process
The process sometimes may take long periods and may require expertise. An external consultant can be hired for a Due diligence fee to make the process more objective
Here are the steps that are required for a detailed Due Diligence exercise:
Establishing the purpose of the investment
The investor needs to identify the purpose of the investment to do due diligence on the relevant aspects of the financial assets. For example, an investor wants to invest in a start-up with an aim of explosive growth in the next few years, so that he could exit the investment with massive gains. Or another investor wants to invest in a Real Estate fund specializing in infrastructure to generate a regular flow of income. Establishing the purpose clarifies the areas where the due diligence should be focused on. This leads to the development of the Due Diligence framework
Identifying the focus areas for Due Diligence
Once the purpose is established, investors should identify their focus areas for due diligence accordingly. In the above example say for the start-up the future growth is very important. What are the factors on which the future growth would depend? These are the market in which the start-up operates, its competition, its product, the capability of the team, etc. Similarly, for the Real Estate investment, the quality of underlying assets is important so that the investor could be assured of regular returns. This leads to doing due diligence on the type and quality of investments done by the RE fund, contracts signed, leases, rent rolls, tenants, users, market conditions, and everything else that may have an impact on the RE yield, where the fund operates
Preparing Due Diligence Questionnaires
A questionnaire needs to be prepared for each focus area. The way it works is that one starts with a broad question and set of other supporting questions. The questionnaire is followed by the collection of all the relevant data and documents. The seller provides the due diligence documents through data rooms, that could be physical or virtual. Investors or their representatives go through the details of all the data and documents and ask for clarifications if that is so required. A Due diligence checklist is also prepared to find out all the relevant supporting documents. A Due Diligence Analyst keeps track of the documents in the data room and the actions completed.
Preparing Due Diligence Report
Once the study of all the data and documents is complete, the service provider prepares a due diligence report for the investors. It carries all the details about the investments, outcomes that could reasonably be expected from the investments, and red flags that the investor should be concerned about. Some reports clearly suggest if the investor should go ahead with the investment at all
Magistral Consulting has experience in conducting due diligence for start-ups, private companies, public companies, and funds. It covers all aspects of due diligence done by Private Equity, Venture Capital, Investment Banks, Family Offices, and Fund of Funds. Here are the broad types of Due Diligence
Due Diligence of a Company
Due diligence for companies is typically done before investing in or Mergers and Acquisitions of companies. This is also done before buying a business. The areas covered in the process largely depend on the size of the company and the purpose of the investment. While doing due diligence for companies, the following are the areas that should be looked into
Financial Performance-Past and Forecast
This is very critical for bigger companies. As usually the investments are done for returns from stocks, which is directly related to the expected financial performance of the company. It also impacts company valuation and stock price. Past financial performance is pulled out and compared with regulatory filings. Also studied are the market, trends, cyclicity, inventory, and other financial aspects. P&L and balance sheets are dived into to find any outliers. This is compared with peers in the same industry to look for anything that may raise suspicion. Forecast assumptions are checked for validity. Departmental budgets are scrutinized for authenticity and to find improvement potential. Previous audit reports are seen for regularly repeated observations. Usually, for start-ups, this is not a critical factor, as they are still in process of streamlining the revenue sources. Still, for start-ups that are looking to raise funds beyond seed or Series A, it’s imperative to get into the details of financials.
Another aspect of companies that need closer careful evaluation is their strategy. The growth rates of the markets, and product categories, it plans to expand into is closely studied. It is checked if the current portfolio of its products and services is the most favorable from cost and growth perspectives. Risks are also evaluated along with the competition of the company. In the case of Start-ups and smaller companies, growth rates, competition and trends are looked into closely to verify the assumptions made while valuing the company
various other functions of the company are also studied under this like Manufacturing, Procurement, Human Resources, Technology, etc. It is evaluated with a lens of efficiency and cost. This is to evaluate the scope of operational efficiency in case the ownership of the company changes hands. Again this is not so important for smaller or start-up companies.
Due diligence on the team is very important for start-up companies. Their experience, skills, qualifications, and past achievements are looked into to have a comprehensive view of their capabilities and future potential. This factor is not that important in the case of large companies where this exercise is being done for M&A
This is very important for SaaS-based tech start-ups. The product needs to be checked as to where is it in the development stage. If it is fully developed, whether its UI, features, etc. are working properly. If not how much time and effort will go into developing the product. Is there even a chance of whether the team will ever be able to develop the product? For bigger companies, the entire portfolio of the product is studied to find out winners
In the case of B2B health of the biggest clients is checked out to suggest the sustainability of the market for the company. In the case of the B2C demographic profile and its future changes are analyzed to understand any revenue impact in the future. For SaaS-based tech companies, the nature of customers is understood whether they are free, freemium, or paid and the average ticket price to understand the sustainability of the business in the long run
Due Diligence of Funds
Due diligence of funds is usually done by Fund of Funds, Family Offices, and other investors who are interested in investing in the fund. The process, in this case, is different from the process followed in case of companies
Here are the items that are looked at while performing due diligence for the funds
This is true for both Real Estate and Hedge Funds. All the technical parameters related to the fund performance are looked at while making a decision. This evaluates not only the returns that the fund has generated in the past but also the volatility and the risk taken to produce those returns. Funds’ performance is benchmarked with the indices that carry no investment risks
Here the profile of Fund Managers is looked into. Their experience qualification and past performance are looked into while evaluating the team. This is again true for both Hedge Funds and Real Estate funds
The investment focus of the fund is analyzed to see if it is in line with the expectations of the investor. If it is a hedge fund that its markets, stocks, and geography are considered whereas if it is a Real Estate fund then the Real Estate Class and geography are considered for the exercise.
This is slightly more important in the case of Due Diligence of Real Estate funds as compared to Hedge funds as the Hedge Fund portfolio churns more often, whereas the Real Estate portfolio is more or less permanent. The quality of the underlying portfolio is looked at for the potential of generating regular returns. If there are any red flags in any of the properties, the same is highlighted. Real Estate properties and assets are analyzed for price trends, forecasts, rent, value increase, neighborhoods, and future potential of the asset.
This is more relevant for niche Real Estate funds that are dealing in specialist RE categories like handicap hostels or Self-storage. The potential in the underlying theme is objectively evaluated to find out the potential of returns that could be generated in the future
Magistral has experience and capabilities in providing Due Diligence Services to global clients in the space of Private Equity, Venture Capital, Investment Banking, and Family Offices
Magistral Consulting has helped multiple funds and companies in outsourcing operations activities. It has service offerings for Private Equity, Venture Capital, Family Offices, Investment Banks, Asset Managers, Hedge Funds, Financial Consultants, Real Estate, REITs, RE funds, Corporates and Portfolio companies. Its functional expertise is around Deal origination, Deal Execution, Due Diligence, Financial Modeling, Portfolio Management and Equity Research
For setting up an appointment with a Magistral representative visit www.magistralconsulting.com/contact
About the Author
The Author, Prabhash Choudhary is the CEO of Magistral Consulting and can be reached at Prabhash.firstname.lastname@example.org for any queries or business inquiries.