|Leases & Leasing Information|
Venture Leasing - A Smarter Way To Build Enterprise Value
In 2003, venture capitalists and investors dispensed over $18 billion to promising young U.S. companies, according to VentureOne and Ernst & Young Quarterly Venture Capital Report. Less documented and reported is venture leasing's activity and volume. This form of equipment financing contributes greatly to the growth of U.S. start-ups. Yearly, specialty leasing companies pour hundreds of millions of dollars into start-ups, permitting savvy entrepreneurs to achieve the biggest 'bang for their buck' in financing growth. What is venture leasing and how do sophisticated entrepreneurs maximize enterprise value with this type of financing? Why is venture leasing a cheaper and smarter way to finance needed equipment when compared to venture capital? For answers, one must look closely at this relatively new and expanding form of equipment financing specifically designed for rapidly growing venture capital-backed start-ups.
The term venture leasing describes the leasing of equipment to pre-profit, start-ups funded by venture capital investors. These companies usually have negative cash flow and rely on additional equity rounds to fulfill their business plans. Venture leasing allows growing start-ups to acquire needed operating equipment while conserving expensive venture development capital. Equipment financed by venture leases usually includes essentials such as computers, laboratory equipment, test equipment, furniture, manufacturing and production equipment, and other equipment to automate the office.
Using Venture Leasing Is Smart
Venture leasing enjoys many advantages over traditional venture capital and bank financing. Financing new ventures can be a high risk business. Venture capitalists generally demand sizeable equity stakes in the companies they finance to compensate for this risk. They typically seek investment returns of at least 35% - 50% on their unsecured, non-amortizing equity investments. An IPO or other sale of their equity position within three to six years of investing offers them the best avenue to capture this return. Many venture capitalists require board representation, specific exit time frames and/or investor rights to force a 'liquidity' event. In comparison, venture leasing has none of these drawbacks. Venture lessors typically seek an annual return in the 14% - 20% range. These transactions usually amortize monthly in two to four years and are secured by the underlying assets. Although the risk to the venture lessor is also high, this risk is mitigated by requiring collateral and structuring a transaction that amortizes. By using venture leasing and venture capital together, the savvy entrepreneur lowers the venture's overall capital cost, builds enterprise value faster and preserves ownership.
Venture leasing is also very flexible. By structuring a fair market value purchase or renewal option at the end of the lease, the start-up can slash monthly payments. Lower payments result in higher earnings and cash flow. Since a fair market value option is not an obligation, the lessee has a high degree of flexibility and control. The resulting reduction in payments and shift of lease expense beyond the expiry of the transaction can deliver a higher enterprise value to the savvy entrepreneur during the initial term of the lease. The higher enterprise value results from the start-up's ability to achieve higher earnings, upon which most valuations are based.
Customers benefit more from venture leasing as compared to traditional bank financing in two ways. First, venture leases are usually only secured by the underlying equipment. Additionally, there are usually no restrictive financial covenants. Most banks, if they lend to early stage companies, require blanket liens on all of the companies' assets. In some cases, they also require guarantees of the start-ups' principals. More and more, sophisticated entrepreneurs recognize the stifling effects of these limitations and their impact on growth. When start-ups need additional financing and a sole lender has encumbered all company assets or required guarantees, these young companies become less attractive to other financing sources. Correcting this situation can sap the entrepreneurs' time and energy.
How Venture Leasing Works
Generally, a major round of equity capital raised from credible investors or venture capitalists makes venture leasing viable for the early stage company. Lessors structure most transactions as master lease lines, permitting the lessee to draw down on the lines as needed throughout the year. Lease lines usually range in size from as little as $ 200,000 to well over $ 5,000,000, depending on the lessee's need and credit strength. Terms are typically between twenty four to forty eight months, payable monthly in advance. The lessee's credit strength, the quality and useful life of the underlying equipment, and the lessor's anticipated ability to re-market the equipment during the lease often dictate the initial lease term. Although no lessor enters a leasing arrangement expecting to re-market the equipment prior to lease expiry, should the lessee's business fail, the lessor must pursue this avenue of recovery to salvage the transaction. Most venture leases give lessees flexible end-of-lease options. These options generally include the ability to buy the equipment, to renew the lease at fair market value or to return the equipment to the lessor. Many lessors limit the fair market value, which also benefits the lessee. Most leases require the lessee to shoulder the important equipment obligations such as maintenance, insurance and paying required equipment taxes.
Venture lessors target lessee prospects that have good promise and that are likely to fulfill their leases. Since most start-ups rely on future equity rounds to execute their business plans, lessors devote significant attention to credit review and due diligence - evaluating the caliber of the investor group, the efficacy of the business plan and management's background. A superior management team has usually demonstrated prior successes in the field in which the new venture is active. Additionally, management's expertise in the key business functions -- sales, marketing, R&D, production, engineering, finance --- is essential. Although there are many professional venture capitalists financing new ventures, there can be a significant difference in their abilities, staying power and resources. The better venture capitalists achieve excellent results and have direct experience with the type of companies being financed. The best VCs have developed industry specialization and many have in-house specialists with direct operating experience within the industries covered. Also important to the venture lessor are the amount of capital VCs provide the start-up and the amount allocated to future funding rounds.
After determining that the management team and venture capital investors are qualified, venture lessors evaluate the start-up's business model and the market potential. Since most venture lessors are not technology specialists ? able to assess products, technology, patents, business processes and the like - they rely greatly on the thorough due diligence of experienced venture capitalists. But the experienced venture lessor does undertake an independent evaluation of the business plan and conducts careful due diligence to understand its content. Here, the lessor generally attempts to understand and concur with the business model. Questions to be answered include: Is the business model sensible? How large is the market for the prospect's services or products? Are the income projections realistic? Is pricing of the product or service sensible? How much cash is on hand and how long will it last according to the projections? When is the next equity round needed? Are the key people needed execute the business plan in place? These and similar questions help determine whether the business model is reasonable.
Satisfied that the business model is sound, the venture lessor's greatest concern is whether the start-up has sufficient liquidity or cash on hand to support a significant portion of the lease term. If the venture fails to raise additional capital or runs out of cash, the lessor is not likely to collect further lease payments. To mitigate this risk, most experienced venture lessors pursue start-ups with at least nine months of cash or sufficient liquid assets to service a substantial portion of their leases.
Getting the Best Deal
What determines venture lease pricing and how does a prospective lessee get the best deal? First, make sure you are comfortable with the leasing company. This relationship is usually more important than transaction pricing. With the rapid rise in venture leasing over the past decade, a handful of national leasing companies now specialize in venture leases. A good venture lessor has a lot of expertise in this market, is accustom to working with start-ups, and is prepared to help in difficult cash flow situations should the start-up stray from plan. Also, the best venture lessors deliver other value-added services - such as assisting in equipment acquisitions at better prices, trading out existing equipment, finding additional venture capital sources, working capital lines, factoring, temporary CFOs, and introductions to potential strategic partners.
Once the start-up finds a capable venture lessor, negotiating a fair and competitive lease is the next order of business. A number of factors determine venture lease pricing and terms. Important factors include: 1) the perceived credit strength of the lessee, 2) equipment quality, 3) market rates, and 4) competitive factors within the venture leasing market. Since the lease can be structured with several options, many of which influence the ultimate lease cost, start-ups should compare competing lease proposals. Lessors typically structured leases to yield 14% - 20%. By developing end-of-lease options to better accommodate lessees' needs, lessors can shift some of this pricing to the lease's back end in the form of a fair market value or fixed purchase or renewal option. It is not uncommon to see a three year lease structured to yield 9% - 11% annually during the initial lease term. Thereafter, the lessee can choose to return the equipment, purchase the equipment for 10% - 15% of equipment cost or to renew the lease for an additional year. If the lease is renewed, the lessor recovers an additional 10% - 15% of equipment cost. If the equipment is returned to the lessor, the start-up reduces its cost and limits the amount paid under the lease. The lessor will then remarket the equipment to achieve its 14% - 20% yield target.
Another way that leasing companies can justify slashing lease payments is to incorporate warrants to purchase stock into the transaction. Warrants give the lessor the right to buy an agreed upon quantity of ownership shares at a share price predetermined by the parties. Under a venture lease with warrant pricing, the lessor typically prices that lease several percentage points below a similar lease without warrants. The number of warrants the start-up proffers is arrived at by dividing a portion of the lease line - usually 3% to 15% of the line - by the warrant strike price. The strike price is typically the share price of the most recently completed equity round. Including a warrant option often encourages venture lessors to enter transactions with companies that are very early in development or where the equipment to be leased is of questionable quality or re-marketability.
Building a young company into an industry leader is in many ways similar to building a state-of-the art airplane or bridge. You need the right people, partners, ideas, materials and tools. Venture leasing is a useful tool for the savvy entrepreneur. When used properly, this financing tool can help early stage companies accelerate growth, squeeze the most out of their venture capital and increase enterprise value between equity rounds. Why not preserve ownership for those really doing the heavy lifting?
George Parker is a Director and Executive Vice President of Leasing Technologies International, Inc. ("LTI"). He is responsible for overseeing the company's marketing and financing efforts. One of the co-founders of LTI, Mr. Parker has been involved in secured lending and equipment financing for over twenty years. Mr. Parker is an industry leader, frequent panelist and author of several articles pertaining to equipment financing.
Headquartered in Wilton, CT, LTI is a leasing firm specializing nationally in direct equipment financing and vendor leasing programs for emerging growth and later-stage, venture capital backed companies. More information about LTI is available at: http://www.ltileasing.com.
Lease or Buy? That is Always the Question with Car Financing
Leasing is a perfectly viable and legitimate way to finance a new car. Although leasing offers attractive benefits, it is somewhat more complex than buying with a loan. This means there can be pitfalls if a decision to lease is made for the wrong reasons.
Insiders Guide to Snaring the Best Lease Deal
Every year, thousands of business owners and financial managers are faced with the task of obtaining attractive financing for equipment their firms want to acquire. Snaring the best leasing arrangement requires only a bit of planning and a smidgeon of finesse. You can save time, land a better lease deal and make the leasing experience less of a conundrum by considering several important factors.
Venture Leasing: Startup Financing On the Rise
According to Pricewaterhouse Coopers, investment by institutional venture capitalists in startups grew from less than $3.0 billion at the beginning of the 1990's to over $106 billion in 2000. Although venture capital volume has retreated significantly since the economic "bubble" years of the late 1990's, the present volume of around $ 19 billion per year still represents a substantial rate of growth. Venture capitalists will fund more than 2,500 high growth startups in the U.S. this year.
Terms to Know Before Leasing A Vehicle - Leasing Jargon Simplified
So, you've decided that you want to lease that next vehicle. Can't really blame you. With today's incentives, rebates, and favourable lease rates why wouldn't you. Not only do you get to drive a new car, but a new car that you wouldn't otherwise be able to afford if you were to purchase and finance it. Buyer beware though. With leasing comes new and sometimes rather confusing vocabulary. Don't get lost in a sea of leasing jargon. Protect yourself. Learn and understand the industry language. For those seriously thinking of leasing that next vehicle, here is a useful glossary of "new" terminology that you should familiarize yourself with BEFORE you negotiate a lease:
Explore An Effective Revolutionary Approach To Traditional Business Financing
For business owners who need working capital now there is a revolutionary, tax-deductible cash flow solution that frees up capital and gives them the money they need to grow. This diversified cash flow solutions is known as "asset leasing."
Warning - This Lease Might Explode Any Minute
Mike Caringi, owner of a small New Jersey business that sells pumps, found himself facing a gut-wrenching dilemma last summer. Should he continue paying $ 1,500 each month for essential telecommunications services he no longer receives and for leased equipment he claims was never installed? Or, should he stop making payments and face a potential lawsuit from the firm that financed the equipment under a 'hell or high water' lease? Mr. Caringi's company is one of several thousand small companies around the country reeling from the bankruptcy of Norvergence, a reseller of telecommunications and Internet services. At the core of the quagmire facing Mr. Caringi and others is that Norvergence succeeded in getting customers to sign separate lease and service contracts that provided its services.
Smart Car Leasing for Beginners
Car leasing is extremely popular because it provides an attractive method of driving an automobile that you might not otherwise afford. It allows you to make lower monthly payments than with traditional car purchase loans. About one out of every four vehicles driven by automotive consumers in the United States are leased.
Lease Contracts - The Meaning of Joint and Several
When you see the phrase "joint and several" in a legal document or contract it means that that the parties on one side of the agreement are responsible individually and collectively for the terms of the agreement.
Equipment Leasing Blunders That Can Cost Your Firm a Mint
Rod McHenry, the financial vice president of a document imaging company, thought he had great cause for celebrating. He had signed an unbelievable $370,000 lease proposal covering computer servers, workstations, software and other networking equipment. McHenry believed he had snared an incredible lease rate, capping off weeks of negotiating an acceptable equipment price with the equipment vendor. The proposal guaranteed a lease closing and offered a return of the 2% 'commitment fee' paid by McHenry's company if the leasing company failed to give credit approval within two weeks. Little did McHenry know that signing this proposal would lead his company into the 'Twilight Zone' of equipment leasing. Ultimately, his firm would fork out more than $15,000 in legal fees seeking lessor performance, only to learn that the lessor was already insolvent and mired in several similar lawsuits.
Using Equipment Leasing as a Competitive Weapon
Most great generals know how to design winning battle plans. They also know how to use their resources to gain advantages over the enemy. For these military leaders, getting enough tanks, aircraft, ships and armaments into the hands of the right personnel can spell military victory or defeat.
How To Choose An Equipment Leasing Company
Leasing has become a preferred form of equipment financing, accounting for more than 30% of business equipment acquisitions. Each year, thousands of U.S. companies face the challenge of finding attractive financing to acquire business equipment. Many of these companies approach the lease sourcing process seeking the lowest lease rate. While securing a low rate is a worthwhile goal in choosing a leasing arrangement, it alone is usually not a reliable standard for obtaining the best lease transaction or leasing experience.
Landlord Tips And Tricks
Every real estate investor dealing in rental homes has done his own clean-up and fix-up, at least in the early years. Landlords also become very skilled at managing tenants after being burned a few times.
What Happens When the Anchor Tenant Moves and You Are On a Ten-year Lease?
Recently there was an article in the Houston Business Journal of the anchor store in many shopping centers through out Houston pulling out. Kmart, took out some stores, so did three other big box stores and a few consumer electronics places and larger furniture stores, now Albertson's has left. Who gets hurt? The franchise stores who pay a high price and lease to be in those centers along side a big anchor tenant. Think about it, Albertson's with their large super stores with Banks in side, Starbucks coffee, bakery, mini eating area, film developing and pharmacy. Soon in Western States where property and land permit, on site carwashes too and also some already have fuel for your car, when you are a club card member. What if you had an MBE, Quiznos, Subway, Dry Cleaning, Travel Agency (as if things are not bad enough already), GNC, Hobby Town, Cost Cutters, etc.
What to Consider Before Leasing a Car
Some people choose to lease a car rather than buying one outright. Here are some useful tips on what to consider before leasing a car:
With a Lease, The Devil Is In The Details
In the last article we looked at a few of the things you should consider before leasing that first office or storefront for your business. To recap, you should not only consider the old standard "location, location, location," but also consider things like sufficient parking, the number of employees who will be working onsite, and future growth projections. I stressed that it was important not to get caught up in the moment. You should take your time to find the space best suited for your business for the long haul, not just for today.
The Leverage of the Lease
In today's rapidly changing business environment it makes sense to consider all the options before paying for your business equipment ? whether it's a photocopier, computer system, computer hardware or software, telephone system, security equipment, office furniture or anything else. Many business people will give great consideration to the actual purchase, getting quotes from different suppliers and considering different choices. When it comes to paying, however, they simply pay cash or use bank finance without fully exploring the available options.
Interim Rent: Equipment Leasing?s Trap Door
Many lessees enter into lease transactions that they believe are competitive based on faulty rate assumptions. Most lease rate calculations don't take interim rent into consideration. Interim rent is the trap door that allows lessors to receive increases in lease pricing. It is unpredictable and the amount can be arbitrary. By understanding how interim can impact your lease, you can close this trap door and enjoy the lease pricing you thought you negotiated.
True Tenant Tales, Volume One
Working with tenants can be an amazing experience. (Owners and contractors are equally astounding, but those are subjects for another day.) It seems I get my most memorable anecdotes over the phone. Here are a few of the ones I've culled from my blog and experience and put together for your reading amazement.
The Lease And Purchase Option
If you have an investment property, should you rent it or sell it? The answer to that question is that you should do both. If you have lots of time on your hands and are handy with tools, you can choose to rent out your property. However, if you have several properties for rent, maintaining them can consume lots of your time. You can choose to hire someone else to maintain your properties, but it cost you money. And higher expenses mean lower profits. In addition to investing your time, finding good tenants for your properties is not easy. Tenants that choose to rent usually do it for a reason. They are usually having credit problems. In addition, most tenants do not take good care of your properties like they would their own homes. And when things go sour, they can mess up your house before they move out. Your goal is to find good tenants to rent your property, transfer the maintenance responsibility to them, and create incentives for them to eventually buy your property. Including the option to purchase to the least contract can eliminate most of the headaches associated with maintenance and dealing with bad tenants. There are several other benefits to the lease and purchase option.
Ten Ways to Save a Bundle on Your Next Lease
According to the Equipment Leasing Association ("ELA"), U.S. businesses lease every thing from laptop computers to commercial airplanes, racking up more than $ 200 billion in equipment leased each year. Although four out of five U.S. companies use leasing to acquire equipment, many don't know the ins and outs of leasing well enough to negotiate a good deal. By focusing on a few key aspects of the lease transaction, you can save a bundle on your next lease and eliminate potential aggravation.
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