Analyzing Assumptions in a Cash Flow Forecast

Forecasts of future cash flows within the income approach to business valuation are loaded with assumptions. During my nearly two decades of business valuation experience, I have reviewed hundreds of valuation reports prepared by other experts that serve as a constant reminder that mathematical accuracy does not always equate to a reasonable value. I have seen erroneous assumptions made by business appraisers that range from illogical disconnects within the valuation to outright errors or unsubstantiated speculation.

Business appraisers must often deal with financial forecasts in their valuation of private companies. Sometimes, the financial forecasts or projections used by the appraiser in a discounted or capitalized cash flow model are provided by management, in which case the appraiser might:

  • accept these forecasts at face value because management prepared them,
  • accept these forecasts, but adjust for questionable assumptions by varying the discount rate used,
  • tweak the forecasts based on the appraiser’s judgement, or
  • come up with his or her own forecasts of the company’s cash flows.

Regardless of the method the appraiser uses, there are numerous assumptions in a cash flow forecast that must be adequately analyzed and supported, the absence of which may cause an overvaluation or undervaluation of the company.

In this multipart blog series, I will point out common issues I have observed in my review of valuation models and reports.  I will focus on the forecasts of:

  • capital expenditures, depreciation, and amortization,
  • working capital to sales,
  • short and long term growth rates,
  • deferred income taxes, and
  • use of future debt.

Look beyond mathematical accuracy. Without adequate analysis and support, the assumptions and related ratios embedded in the forecasted cash flows used in a capitalized cash flow model or in the calculation of the individual forecast years and the terminal value in a discounted cash flow model can lead to an unreasonable value.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can strengthen your case with a business valuation expert, or want to learn more about our services and our team, please contact us.

28th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference in Nashville — Like a Fine Wine

Originally published by ACFE Insights.

The premier annual conference for anti-fraud professionals just concluded in Nashville at Music City Center. Nashville has every reason to beat its chest about this new venue — it is just fantastic. It’s as good as, if not better than, any conference center in any major city across the country.

The ACFE Global Fraud Conference just gets better and better every year. The ACFE now has more than 80,000 members, more than 3,100 of which attended this conference. These members allow the conference to grow exponentially each year, making it the place to be for anyone serious about the detection and prevention of fraud.

The world of fraud is rapidly changing, making the ACFE Global Fraud Conference a necessity. For example, nowadays a bank robber can remain in his basement and commit 15,000 robberies through his computer. He doesn’t even have to go to the bank, and he can cover his tracks through the Dark Web of the internet. Internet 2.0 is coming — it looks great and security will be better for everyone, but it will take some time.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, computer hacking, ransomware and theft through the computer continue to grow exponentially. These trending topics and more were covered extensively at the immeasurably valuable conference.

Specialists in the multifarious ways of fraud detection and prevention shared the latest and greatest methods to find and investigate fraud in today’s environment. Anti-fraud specialists know our world functions best through personal networking. The conference gives attendees the chance to connect with peers from around the world. I continue to connect with peers I met more than 20 years ago, as well as those I have met in the last few years. My new connections will be just as valuable as the old ones.

Speaking at the conference is a gratifying experience. The ACFE selects only speakers who can teach and offer valuable insights on their selected subject matter because the members are not timid about offering criticism and feedback. This year marked my 15th year to speak, and I presented two sessions on the auditor’s responsibility to detect fraud. The main takeaway for the presentation was that if fraud is committed and the auditor does not detect that fraud, there is likely a 99 percent chance the auditor will be sued. I shared information on professional standards and the devastating consequences of the auditor’s failure to discover a fraud scheme.

What a treat to attend and speak at one of the most professional, informative and well-organized conferences in the world. I look forward to returning to the conference in Las Vegas next year!