May 20, 2024

# Benchmarking Business Worth: How Market Multiples Power Valuation

By Steven R. Amoroso, CPA, ABV, CVA, Supervisor, Advisory Services

When valuing a business, there are various methods and approaches analysts utilize to determine its worth. One popular approach is the application of market multiples under the market approach. Market multiples are valuation ratios derived from comparable company data in the market, which provides a benchmark for valuing a business based on its financial performance.

### Understanding Market Multiples

Market or valuation multiples relate a company’s value to a specific financial metric, such as EBITDA or revenue. These multiples are derived from the sale of comparable companies or the trading multiples of guideline public companies, typically within the same industry or sector. Market multiples provide a relative measure of value by comparing a company’s financial metrics to those of its peers.

### Calculating Market Multiples

Market multiples can be calculated using various financial metrics, depending on the specific valuation objective and industry norms. Some common market multiples include:

1. Enterprise Value-to-Revenue (EV/Revenue) Ratio: This multiple compares a company’s enterprise value (market value of equity plus debt less cash and equivalents) to its revenue. Companies with higher profitability tend to command higher EV/Revenue multiples.
2. Enterprise Value-to-EBITDA (EV/EBITDA) Ratio: This multiple compares a company’s enterprise value to its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA). This is the most widely-used market multiple because the subject company’s profitability is already taken into account in the EBITDA to which the multiple is applied (unlike revenue multiples).
3. Enterprise Value-to-EBITDA (EV/EBIT) Ratio: This multiple compares a company’s enterprise value to its earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT). Like the application of an EBITDA multiple, the subject company’s profitability is already taken into account in the EBIT to which the multiple is applied.

Market multiples are valuable tools in business valuation for several reasons:

1. Relative Valuation: Market multiples allow for a relative valuation approach, which compares a company’s financial metrics to those of similar companies in the market. This approach provides a benchmark for assessing a company’s value based on transactions involving similar companies or comparable publicly traded companies.
2. Industry Comparisons: Market multiples facilitate industry-specific comparisons by considering a particular sector’s unique characteristics and dynamics. This enables a more accurate assessment of a company’s value within its industry context.
3. Quick and Efficient Valuation: Market multiples offer a relatively fast and efficient method of estimating value, especially when a robust dataset of comparable companies is available. They provide a starting point for assessing a company’s value and are typically complemented by an income approach to offer a comprehensive valuation analysis.

### Limitations and Considerations

While market multiples are widely used, it is essential to consider their limitations and exercise caution when applying them in business valuation:

1. Data Quality: The accuracy and comparability of the data used to calculate market multiples are critical. Typically, subscription databases access transaction and guideline public company data. Simply relying on word of mouth regarding the market multiples indicated by comparable transactions is insufficient support.
2. Market Conditions and Timing: Market multiples are influenced by market conditions, which fluctuate over time. Valuations should consider the prevailing market conditions and adjust for any potential anomalies.
3. Unique Business Characteristics: Market multiples may not fully capture the unique characteristics of a specific business, such as the importance of a key individual or a high level of customer concentration that is uncommon in the industry.

### Conclusion

Using market multiples in business valuation is useful in determining a company’s worth. Not only do market multiples serve as another data point for valuation analysts when used within the framework of the three valuation approaches (asset, income, and market), but they also provide company management with a straightforward approach to estimating the value of their business. While a bit of work goes into identifying comparable market multiples and appropriately normalizing the financial metrics to which the multiples will be applied, they are an essential tool for both business owners and valuation experts in determining value.