Current media tells a story of financial markets volatility, global economic ambiguity, trade wars, and health crises. Much of American business faces uncertainty in their outlook for 2020 due to these macro issues. HVACR equipment manufacturers sourcing inputs from Asia are particularly at risk, for example. But in the HVACR services market, which in most cases is managed on a local level, business is less variable and more predictable. This stability makes it possible for HVACR service companies to consider selling their business or acquiring others at attractive values.
Even if a more general economic slowdown materializes, and HVACR customers decide to postpone elective maintenance or larger projects, revenues from maintenance contracts and emergency work will continue. Due to this predictability of revenues, as well as the resources available to acquirors (cash in the bank, credit availability, and a strong supply of financial partners), HVACR businesses will remain attractive to buyers in 2020.
As is the case in the entire mergers and acquisitions market, no two transactions are ever the same. Completed HVACR acquisitions in 2019 illustrate this phenomenon, particularly for these midsize examples:
- CoolSys acquisition of ABC Refrigeration & HVAC. CoolSys is owned by private equity firm Audax which pursues a strategy of acquiring HVACR companies to increase scale and combining them under the CoolSys name. ABC, located in East Syracuse, NY, specialized in commercial refrigeration and air conditioning services. The transaction stands out as an acquisition by private equity firm with existing experience in the industry.
- Caltius Equity acquisition of Air Conditioning Innovative Solutions (“ACIS”). Caltius, another private equity firm and new entrant into the HVACR industry, specializes in industrial business services generally. ACIS, based in McKinney, TX, evolved from a small service-and-repair company to become the leading provider of HVAC and Plumbing maintenance services in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The transaction represents an example of a financial investor buying into the industry for the first time.
- ACCO Engineered Systems (“ACCO”) acquisition of Smith Electric Service. ACCO, a private employee-owned mechanical contracting company, sought to expand in the central coast of California. Smith, based in Santa Maria, CA, was chosen based on their reputation for customer service in the region. This transaction stands as an example of a company already experienced in HVACR expanding their territory and acquiring experienced technicians.
Most if not all of the HVACR service company owners that contact us have a nonstop flow of meeting requests and acquisition proposals from potential suitors. Having an exit strategy based on advice from an experienced deal attorney, accountant, wealth manager and banker helps to reduce the noise and allows owners to thoughtfully evaluate their options. Given that the market value of mid-size businesses remains high compared to historic experience, HVACR business owners should explore the options for selling their business or acquiring others today.
About the Author
Brooks Crankshaw is an HVACR specialist and Managing Director of Balmoral Advisors, an investment bank enhancing shareholder value by advising clients on mergers, acquisitions, debt and equity raising.