Chancery Court: Fair Value Higher than Deal Price Because Management Projections “Unreliable”

Chancery Court: Fair Value Higher than Deal Price Because Management Projections “Unreliable”

 

The Delaware Chancery Court emphasizedthe importance of using reliable projections and the appropriate discount rate in the discounted cash flow method of business valuation. The Court also highlighted the significance of market evidence and the need to weight different valuation methods appropriately. The Court also held that the presence of a private equity sponsor does not necessarily result in an artificially inflated deal price, and that synergies should be considered when they can be quantified with reasonable certainty.

Court Determines Fair Value of PetSmart in Merger

In the case of In re Appraisal of PetSmart, Inc., the Delaware Chancery Court was asked to determine the fair value of PetSmart’s common stock as of the closing of a merger in March 2015. PetSmart was acquired by a consortium of private equity firms for $83 per share, but some of the company’s shareholders dissented from the merger and sought appraisal of their shares in accordance with Delaware law.

After considering expert testimony and analyzing the relevant valuation methodologies, the Court ultimately determined that the fair value of PetSmart’s common stock as of the merger was $128.78 per share, significantly higher than the merger price of $83 per share. In reaching this conclusion, the Court made several key rulings:

 

Key Court Rulings on Fair Value Determination

 

Reliance on Management Projections:

The Court found that PetSmart’s management projections were reliable and could be used in the discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis, despite some criticisms by the dissenters’ expert. The Court noted that management projections are not entitled to blind deference but should be evaluated based on their credibility and the reliability of the underlying assumptions.

Weighting of DCF and Market-Based Approaches:

The Court concluded that the DCF analysis was the most reliable indicator of fair value, given its ability to capture the future earnings and cash flows of the company. However, the Court also considered the market-based approaches, such as comparable company analysis, and assigned them a weight based on their relevance and reliability.

Treatment of Synergies:

The Court rejected the dissenters’ argument that the merger price included a significant synergy value, and thus was not a reliable indicator of fair value. Instead, the Court concluded that any potential synergies were speculative and not supported by the evidence. Accordingly, the Court did not adjust the DCF analysis to account for synergies.

Control Premium:

The Court also rejected the dissenters’ argument that a control premium should be added to the fair value, given the private equity firms’ acquisition of PetSmart. The Court noted that the merger price already reflected a premium for control, and any further adjustments would double-count this premium.

Importance of Rigorous Valuation Techniques and Transparent Reports

The case of In re Appraisal of PetSmart, Inc. highlights the importance of using rigorous quantitative valuation techniques and fully-documented valuation reports. The Delaware Chancery Court’s reliance on the DCF analysis and its rejection of unsupported synergies and control premiums underscore the need for robust and transparent valuation methodologies. In the context of mergers and acquisitions, dissenting shareholders may seek appraisal of their shares, making it crucial for companies to prepare comprehensive valuation reports that can withstand judicial scrutiny.

 

See the full decision here: In re Appraisal of PetSmart, Inc., Consol. C.A. No. 10782-VCS (Del. Ch. May 26, 2017) (Slights, V.C.)

 

How can Eton help?

Don’t let your business fall victim to the less than rigorus valuation analysis. Trust Eton Venture Servicesto guide you through a fair, unbiased and reliable valuation process utilizing multiple methods, relying on third-party data, and considering comparables. Our team of dedicated professionals is committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity, objectivity, and independence. With our extensive experience and expertise in valuation methodologies, we can help you navigate complex transactions and comply with fiduciary duties.

Partner with Eton Venture Services today and safeguard your business from costly legal battles and reputational damage. Contact us now to learn more about our valuation services and how we can help your business stay ahead of potential challenges. Contact Eton today.

get in touch
Let's talk.

Schedule a free consultation meeting to discuss your valuation needs. 

President & CEO

Chris co-founded Eton Venture Services in 2010 to provide mission-critical valuations to venture-based companies. He works closely with each client’s leadership team, board of directors, internal / external counsel, and independent auditor to develop detailed financial models and create accurate, audit-proof valuations.

Table of Contents

Related Posts