Costs of buying a business

Costs of a business purchase in Europe

This document gives some insight on the costs of buying a company in Europe. Buying a company is part of your company's growth strategy and needs to be executed right. We are not only looking at the actual ‘out of pocket’ costs that we show later in the document but consider the costs in a much broader perspective. What are the costs if you purchase the wrong company and you need to repair this in the post-acquisition process or worse years later?

Get a quote

Receive a detailed overview of all the costs on your business purchase.

Costs of buying a business

We come across many buyers for European companies and have seen a large number of business purchases. We also see which companies have been successful in acquisitions three to five years after the purchase. Based on this knowledge we try to give you some information on which aspects to consider when you want to buy a company in Europe.

Goals of buying a business in Europe?

When buying a business and assessing possible costs we suggest first going back to your company strategy. What is your company strategy and what do you want to achieve with a possible acquisition? Is an acquisition the best method to grow? How does this compare to, for example, starting a greenfield operation in a foreign country?

Here’s a list of possible objectives when buying a business:

  • Market development (gain access to new markets)
  • Product development (gain access to new products or services)
  • Achieve economies of scale
  • Create synergies

Buying a business can be the best alternative to achieve your goal. Visit advantages of buying an existing company for a complete overview.

How well do you know your market and target companies?

An important item is how well you know the country where you want to make an acquisition. Do you already know possible target companies in this country that you would be interested in?
How well you know the target market determines if it might be wise to have a market scan done before starting the M&A process. For companies that make larger acquisitions, we often do detailed studies before starting the M&A process. This means we calculate synergies and financial returns per individual target company. You might also do this in less detail and just make an overview of the possible targets and compare the benefits of an acquisition per company. If you have limited market knowledge, this might give you a better understanding of the most suitable company and especially, what you can achieve with an acquisition.

What are the alternatives or strategies when buying a company in Europe?

You can choose a luxury alternative where you have an advisor scan the full market for you and make detailed presentations on individual targets. In case of larger acquisitions, this might be more suitable. We often see the complete opposite in acquisitions of private equity buyers. They pay a success fee only for introducing a company that is open for a business sale. In the transportation or forwarding industry, we also see a lot of buyers that pay a success fee for bringing suitable targets open for a business sale. The risk of this approach for a buyer is that you don’t get to see all the companies open for a business sale. Hence, you might end up missing the most suitable acquisition target and buy a company of lesser quality.

Who helps you to buy a business in Europe?

There are various alternatives when you start looking to buy a company in Europe. You can do this yourself or ask for help from several types of organizations. Below is a list of people that can help you in the acquisition process.

Who helps you to buy a business:

  • Yourself
  • Your lawyer
  • Your bookkeeper
  • An M&A advisor
  • A CFIE M&A advisor

The CFIE team has a strong background in your industry which is beneficial in many aspects. It helps you to prevent buying a target that is not suitable. We provide you with an M&A advisor who speaks your language. Visit M&A advisor to select the most suitable consultant yourself.

The costs of buying a business

There are a lot of costs related to an acquisition and you have to think twice before you start the process. Our experience is that we often see a large focus from buyers on the actual payment to an advisor for the search for suitable targets. Of course, it is very much justified that a buyer wants to keep their costs low related to a company purchase. However, we also want to stress that a buyer will incur more costs later in the process such as legal fees, due diligence, and other transaction-related costs. Further, there are a lot of possible (hidden) costs that can show up if a transaction doesn’t bring what one has hoped it would.

The (hidden) costs of buying a business:

  • Costs for research to determine the right decision and strategy
  • Cost for tracking the right specialists
  • Fee for the advisors and costs spent by internal employees
  • Workflow and travel in the process
  • Costs of wrong advice or wrong decisions
  • Costs due to a bad transaction that needs to be repaired after the acquisition
  • Losses due to less than expected income of the acquired company

Actual expenses of buying a business in Europe?

There is a lot of secrecy around tariffs of M&A advisors. The actual costs of acquiring a company charged by advisors differs enormously. We see a variety of proposals of competitors. Sometimes we are stunned by the height of the fixed charges and other times we ask ourselves why an advisor is willing to put in so much time without any fixed compensation with the risk that no transaction will occur in the end. Below we describe an overview of payment structures we encounter in the market.

Fee structures for M&A advisors we encounter in the market:

  • ‘no cure no pay’ – no fixed costs at all + Lehman formula(1 for success
  • ‘no cure no pay’ – EUR 4 000 office costs + success fee (ranging from 2% to 5%)
  • ‘performance based’ - EUR 4 000 office costs + EUR 4 000 commitment fee + EUR 2 000 for each additional advisor + success fee
  • 'subscription’ – EUR 4 000 office costs + fixed number of days each month at EUR 1 500 per day (at least 3 days for at least 5 months) + 2,5% success fee
  • ‘by the hour` - EUR 2 000 office costs and EUR 95 to 500 for each hour in blocks of 4 hours –no success fee (or 1% if agreed)

Normally, we make a tailor-made agreement for each client based on the background of each buyer. This offer depends on a lot of items and we prefer to discuss this with you personally. Please do get in touch if you want to learn more about how we can help you in the process of an acquisition and what the related costs would be. Download our general presentation for the background of our M&A network and its advisors.

Quality is another key factor concerning the costs of buying a business. Legal aspects have to be filled in correctly otherwise your acquisition might end up as a disaster. Visit legal documents in a business purchase for insights. If your plans are serious, you can already start preparing by visiting preparations for buying a business.

(1 The Lehman formula is a formula that is very often used. The Lehman formula for a success fee is determined as:
* 5% on the first €1 000 000, plus
* 4% on the second €1 000 000, plus
* 3% on the third €1 000 000, plus
* 2% on the fourth €1 000 000, plus
* 1% on everything above €4 000000