The sale of privately held New Zealand businesses has matured significantly over past five years but the best is yet to come.
That's the view of LINK Business Brokers CEO Aaron Toresen, who believes awareness of business brokerage as a service has never been stronger.
And that's due in no small part to the present climate, he claims.
"The exact timing of when baby boomers will decide to transfer their wealth to the next generation, has been the subject of endless speculation — but in my view, it has arrived. We're seeing a significant increase in the sale of businesses, although indicators suggest the best is yet to come."
Toresen expects that during the coming year, baby boomers (those born 1946-1964) will bring even more businesses to market.
In his observation, their hands are increasingly being forced by a combination of the desire to retire, increasing health issues and — perhaps also — a lack of any willing successors.
"But for many baby boomers, this will be no financial disadvantage. Buyers who are looking for quality businesses are now present in good numbers, and they're more than willing to pay fair value.
"We expect hundreds more businesses changing hands — over-and-above what occurred last year, which was a record year for many business brokerages."
Toresen has noted a shortage of profitable quality businesses — in the $2 million-plus range — over about the past 15 years, with many of the businesses that fall into this value range owned by "The Boomer Set".
"We expect to see many niche manufacturers; engineering businesses; import-and-distribution operations; and other trade-based ones come to market — with buyers already lining up."
He concedes that the Reserve Bank's limiting of access to equity in homes, through the responsible lending code, had an effect on the market.
"At times banks have struggled to place funds, and have often been forced to compete on rates just to attract sufficient customers who meet the new criteria.
"But despite that an abundance of buyers are now present in the market, and in my view this group are actually ready, willing and able to make deals.
"Brokerages, such as ourselves, who have been operating in this space for many years, are likely to have an endless database of willing buyers previously unsatisfied with the offerings available in market.
"We're noticing syndications coming together to purchase fully managed businesses. Often friends, who have been in corporate jobs for lengthy periods, perhaps for up to 15 years or longer, decide to join forces to become business partners.
"And one outcome of all this renewed acquisition activity is an intensification of the war for talent."
Toresen points out that keeping key employees in the business following a sale, is a vital area for buyers to focus on.
"It is increasingly difficult to find high-quality employees in the current, near-record-low unemployment climate.
"Another area buyers and sellers are keenly anticipating is the recommendation of the Tax Working Group report, which is due out in February.
"This will likely spur some additional activity should a capital gains tax be recommended or considered.
"And, of course, besides the baby boomer businesses, we're also seeing voracious entrepreneurialism among the younger generations, where owning your business is often more attractive than years of working for an employer.
"Desire to chase a better lifestyle with more control has meant a surge in young business owners buying cafes, restaurants and various online businesses — to name just a few — which is also set to increase in 2019," Toresen says.
"So, barring a calamity, such as a US led economic meltdown or some other similarly far reaching disaster," he said, "2019 is poised to be the launch pad for the largest single year of business transactions in New Zealand history."