Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Remembering Jerry Maguire

There’s a great scene in the movie “Jerry Maguire” in which Tom Cruise is pleading with a prospective client. He says, again and again:

“Help me help you. Help ME help YOU!”

Without Cruise’s inflection it sounds a little flat but he was really PLEADING.

Suspend disbelief for a moment and let some of that pleading tone seep into your reading of this post!

In my June 30 post I complimented the TRE management on the job they’ve been doing at getting Sellers to post updated financial statements in a more timely manner (as required, by the way, in their program agreements). It’s an issue that I and others, I know, have been concerned about and things are moving in the right direction.

Now I’d like to make another suggestion. I can’t communicate directly with TRE Sellers. That’s not allowed. So I’ll make it in this forum and hope that it somehow gets transmitted through other channels.

Here’s the issue…..

As I sit here, there is a live auction on the platform that I might well be interested in, EXCEPT that the updated financial statements show what is to me a serious and inexplicable trend in the ratio of accounts receivable to gross sales. The number is so far out of the ordinary and the trend is so definite that, without some explanation, I just can’t bid.

The Seller MUST recognize that this is a red-flag item.

Absent some other explanation I have to assume that there is an unappealing reason why receivables are such an unusual percentage of sales. But maybe there IS another explanation. If the Seller were encouraged to post an explanatory note that solved the riddle, there might be a greater level of interest in its auction.

So.....“XYZ Corp, help US help YOU!”

Give the community of Buyers SOMETHING to explain the weird numbers!

I met the other day with a colleague and, among other things; we discussed some of the companies on my “bid vs. no-bid” list. In scanning my list he saw a name that I had categorized as “no bid”.

My colleague happens to know this company and its background. He told me that, while he is aware that they’ve had a history of very substantial losses and have a current a balance sheet that ”must look horrible”, he suspected the company’s backers were quite willing to continue funding it.

That’s information that is not available from the material provided on the TRE platform, from the credit information I had obtained on the company or from the data available from a quick online search. (I admit that, given the looks of the financial statements, I did not spend a great deal of time trying to find reasons to qualify the Seller.)

But in this case, too, some explanatory notes from management could be made available on the TRE platform to help Buyers understand in a more nuanced way the financial situation of the company.

And helping Buyers understand the Seller’s situation will ultimately help the Seller.

One more example and I’ll leave this alone.

There are several Sellers that have very substantial, unexplained, Intangible Asset entries on their balance sheets. In some cases the only net equity on the balance sheet results from these intangibles.

With no explanation of the nature of the intangible it’s hard to give its stated value any significant credence. A note of explanation COULD make the difference between having many interested Buyers vs. few and an attractive pricing vs. one less attractive.

The nature of the relationship between TRE Buyer and Seller is unusual. We can’t pick up the phone and ask the Seller questions. But the answers to some obvious questions could be of real benefit to all parties.

So, while I have no standing to make a request on behalf of all Buyers, I’ll say to both the Sellers and to TRE:

"Help us help you!”

Added clarity on financial statement items that are obvious red flags can only benefit the Sellers.

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