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The Valuation of Digital Intangibles: Technology, Marketing and Internet

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This book offers a primer on the valuation of digital intangibles, a trending class of immaterial assets. Startups like successful unicorns, as well as consolidated firms desperately working to re-engineer their business models, are now trying to go digital and to reap higher returns by exploiting new intangibles. This book is innovative in its design and concept since it tackles a frontier topic with an original methodology, combining academic rigor with practical insights. Digital intangibles range from digitized versions of traditional immaterial assets (brands, patents, know-how, etc.) to more trendy applications like big data, Internet of Things, interoperable databases, artificial intelligence, digital newspapers, social networks, blockchains, FinTech applications, etc. This book comprehensively addresses related valuation issues, and demonstrates how best practices can be applied to specific asset appraisals, making it of interest to researchers, students, and practitioners alike. Roberto Moro Visconti is professor of Corporate Finance at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan, Italy, and is the director of studio Moro Visconti – chartered accountants and financial consultants. Dr. Moro Visconti manages a consolidated financial boutique that derives from a deep-rooted tradition of professional consultants in Milan.
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Roberto Moro Visconti – roberto.moro@unicatt.it – www.morovisconti.com
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THE VALUATION OF INTANGIBLE ASSETS:
AN INTRODUCTION
Roberto Moro Visconti
Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan, Italy
roberto.moro@unicatt.it
Abstract
An intangible is a non-monetary asset that manifests itself by its economic properties. It does not
have physical substance but grants rights and economic benefits to its owner.
The examination of the general approaches of valuation of companies is preliminary to the estimation
of assets such as the intangibles.
Intangibles are more specific than other assets and incorporate higher information asymmetries,
linked to higher risk profiles and lower collateral value.
The most widely used approaches of assessing intangibles are based on the reproduction cost
approach, i.e. the income expectations deriving from the exploitation of the intangibles or from its
comparative market value.
Keywords: intangibles; immaterial; intellectual capital; brand; patent; royalty; goodwill; cost
approach; income approach; market approach; scalability.
1.1. Purpose of the firm evaluation
The value of a company is essentially the result of a series of factors, of which they are of particular
importance:
- net assets, i.e. all the funds contributed by the partners to finance the business activity;
- ability to generate income, i.e. the ability to produce positive income flows;
- financial capacity.
The attitude of the net assets to produce income depends on the quality of the means of production
and on the entrepreneurial capacity. This last circumstance is of particular importance and allows us
to understand the presence of profoundly different profit margins between companies operating in
the same sector. Under ideal conditions, the subjectively sought "value" must tend to coincide with
an objectively determined "price" at the negotiation stage.
Value means the result of the application of one or more valuation criteria, chosen in relation to the
type of corporate transaction that required the estimate, the identity of the parties involved and the
activity of the firm to be evaluated. It is independent of the contractual strength of the parties and
other subjective factors.
The price is the meeting point of expectations and benefits formulated by the supply and demand
involved in the negotiation of the company. A firm can be evaluated, among other things:
1. with a view to trade:
purchases/sales of shareholdings (the underlying company is valued), companies or business
units;
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extraordinary financial transactions (relating to the company / branch of business), such as
mergers, demergers, contributions, disposals, transformations ...;
2. in view of changes in capital:
issue of shares (excluding pre-emptive rights; with share premium ...);
issue of convertible bonds;
issue of warrants;
linked to extraordinary operations (transfers, transformations, mergers, contributions,
demergers, etc.);
3. with a view to the purchase of assets by the founding partners;
4. with a view to providing guarantees;
5. for arbitration or similar proceedings;
6. for listing on the Stock Exchange;
7. for "internal" cognitive purposes;
8. for the evaluation of the withdrawal of the shareholder.
The main approaches for estimating the market value of companies are different and can be divided
into two types: empirical approaches and analytical approaches.
Empirical approaches are based on the practical observation of market prices of intangible assets
which are sufficiently similar and, as such, comparable.
Analytical approaches, on the other hand, have a more solid scientific basis and a greater tradition
also in the professional sphere and are based above all on a revenue-financial approach, in order to
estimate what an asset is worth today on the basis of expected future returns or an estimate of the
costs incurred or of reproduction/replacement.
The main approaches of evaluating companies commonly used in practice are:
- the equity approach, simple and complex;
- the income approach;
- the mixed capital-income approach;
- the financial approach;
- market approaches and valuation through multiples.
The central element in determining the value of a firm is the estimate of its future ability to generate
an income or financial flow capable of adequately remunerating its shareholders.
Among the approaches used by operators to identify the market value of the firm, the financial and
income approaches are the most appropriate to represent the expected fair remuneration of
shareholders.
While the equity approach values tangible and intangible resources through the summation of the
values of individual assets, the income and financial approaches consider them as elements able to
participate in the context of the entire set of factors for the creation of value. The firm's market value
is the result of the combined interaction of internal variables relating to the firm's tangible and
intangible assets, and external variables relating to the more general conditions of the economy. The
combined consideration of both categories of variables makes it possible to estimate the firm's future
results and to assess the degree of risk.
Recent valuation trends have led to the use of two approaches: the financial approach based on the
estimate of discounted operating cash flows at the weighted average cost of capital (WACC) and the
market approach based on the EBITDA multipliers of comparable companies. In both cases, the
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enterprise value (value of the firm, including debts) is estimated, which is then added algebraically to
the net financial position to arrive at the equity value.
1.2. The equity approach
The valuation of the market value according to the balance-sheet-driven equity approach is based on
the current value of the equity data contained in the last available balance sheet.
There are three approaches of asset valuation:
simple equity approach;
complex balance sheet grade I;
complex balance sheet of grade II;
This approach has been traditionally used in continental Europe and much less in AngloSaxon
countries.
The starting point for the use of the equity approach, both simple and complex, is represented by the
shareholders' equity of the financial statements including the profit for the year net of the amounts
approved for distribution.
On the basis of the values shown in the financial statements, an analysis of assets and liabilities must
then be carried out, re-priming non-monetary assets (technical fixed assets, inventories of goods,
securities and, depending on the approach used, intangible fixed assets) in terms of current values, so
as to highlight implicit capital gains or losses compared to the accounting data. For assets with a
significant exchange market, the calculation of current values is generally based on the prices
recorded during the most recent negotiations. When there is no reference market, estimates based on
reconstruction or training costs are used.
The simple equity valuation is significant in the case of companies with a high equity content (real
estate companies, financial companies, etc.); in such companies, the overall profitability/risk profile
may represent the synthesis of the profiles implicitly or explicitly considered in the valuation of the
individual assets.
This methodology makes the value of the capital coincide with the difference between the current
value of the assets and the value of the liabilities that contribute to determining the company's assets.
The asset value coincides with the net investment that would be necessary to start a new company
with the same asset structure as the one being valued. The simple asset value is therefore not the
liquidation value of the assets, but the value of their reconstruction from a business operating
perspective.
Enterprise value = book net worth + asset adjustments - liability adjustments = adjusted net
worth = K1 = W1 [1]
where asset and liability adjustments are defined as capital gains and losses net of tax impact.
The simple valuation considers, for the purpose of estimating equity stocks, only tangible assets in
addition to loans and liquidity.
The valuation provides for a detailed estimate of the assets at replacement current values, in particular:
- assets at current repurchase value,
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- assets and liabilities based on settlement values.
The first-grade complex equity approach also considers intangible assets that are not accounted for
but have a market value. In formula:
K1 + intangible assets not accounted for but with market value = K2 = W2 [2]
(e.g. bank deposits, insurance premium portfolio, shop licenses and large-scale distribution)
where:
K1 is the value of assets determined according to the principles of the simple equity approach.
Finally, the complex Tier II equity approach also refers to intangible assets that are not accounted for
and do not have a market value.
k2 + unrecognized intangible assets without market value = K3 = W3 [3]
(e.g. product portfolio, patents and industrial concessions, know-how, market shares and corporate
image sales network, management, value of human capital)
where:
k2 is the value of assets determined according to the complex grade I equity approach.
Intangible assets that are not accounted for and do not have a market value are:
strategy, concerning products and life cycle, customers, markets, market positioning and
market share achieved, orientation towards growth and partnership policies;
customers and market,
processes and innovation,
organization, which includes all the elements related to corporate governance,
human resources.
1.3. The income approach
Profitability valuation can be particularly appropriate when the company has a sufficiently defined
profitability trend, or the approach is deemed reliable for the purposes of company projections. Or
even if the degree of capitalization is not high and there is a significant intangible component (service
companies, commercial ...).
The income approach makes it possible to calculate the market value on the basis of profits, which
the company is deemed to be able to produce in future years.
This methodology is also suitable for the evaluation of cyclical companies, which have very volatile
incomes, but with a tendency to compensate over time. In the presence of cyclical companies,
normalization is a process that can identify a stable trend line, underlying the volatile trend of income
flows that occur in the various periods of management.
The fundamental elements in an evaluation of an income type are:
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- the estimate of normal income,
- the choice of the capitalization rate,
- the choice of the capitalization formula, based on the valuation time horizon, which is considered
to be adopted.
1.3.1. Estimated normal income
As regards the determination of the income to be used as a basis for the valuation, reference is made
to the average normal value of income that the company is expected to produce on a permanent basis
in future years.
Therefore, it is not considered as a series of future incomes, but rather as the expected average normal
value able to reflect the company's average long-term income capacity, in a time horizon consistent
with the business model.
Normal income can be derived from:
- study of the income statement (historical and prospective),
- analysis of the financial structure,
- consistency between the normal operating result and the equity evaluation process,
- normal income, i.e. average prospective income,
- Alternatively: operating result, pre-tax result, net income, cash-flow.
It is important to transform the balance sheet result into a "normalised and integrated value" capable
of expressing the company's ability to generate income, through three corrective processes:
1. normalization: this is an articulated process aimed essentially at:
- redistribute "extraordinary" income and expenses over time;
- eliminate "non-operating" income and expenses;
- neutralization of the effects caused by budgetary policies;
2. the integration of changes in the stock of intangible assets;
3. neutralization of the distorting effects generated by inflation, in order to avoid fictitious losses or
profits that could affect the valuation process.
The aim of the normalization process is to subtract a series of income components from randomness,
so as to bring them back to a relationship of effective competence with the reference period.
Extraordinary income and expenses are defined as significant and sometimes non-recurring,
components of operating income. Extraordinary income may, for example, include the realization of
significant assets on the assets side, such as assets and real estate.
Costs include the economic consequences of exceptional events, such as restructuring costs, costs
arising from the effects of natural disasters and plant removals.
These elements must be redistributed over time in order to express a measure of normal income, not
burdened by components that do not present usual manifestation. The objective of the redistribution
is to replace a random size with an average value to avoid that some businesses are particularly
underweighted, and others are overestimated.
The elimination of income and costs unrelated to ordinary operations must be carried out by bringing
the values in the income statement to a size in line with the market or practice.
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As regards the neutralization of budgetary policies, reference is made to the fundamental budgetary
estimates (amortization and depreciation, inventories, provisions for risks in industrial and
commercial enterprises, fiscal policies).
The integration process is based on the observation that the dynamics of certain values relating to
both intangible assets and intangible assets that are not adequately recorded in the accounts.
The neutralization of the distortive effects of inflation makes it possible to separate real results from
apparent and illusory results, since they derive from the sum of values that are not uniform in
monetary terms. The most commonly used corrections are as follows:
the adjustment of the depreciation rates of technical fixed assets at reconstruction costs, i.e. to
the updated values of recent estimates;
adoption of the LIFO procedure in the valuation of inventories of products, semi-finished
products and raw materials;
determination of economic results
1.3.2 Choice of the capitalization rate
The capitalization rate of normal income represents the opportunity cost of capital employed.
This rate depends on the expected return on the risk-free securities and the risk premium that the
market is expected to require for the type of investment being valued. The expected return on risk-
free securities is generally identified with that on government bonds; the market return refers to all
risky investments available on the market.
An alternative criterion for determining the capitalization rate may be to base it on the cost of capital
invested from the perspective of the purchaser.
In this case, the value of the company is understood as a series of future incomes that must be
discounted on the basis of the average cost of money for the purchaser.
Its value, therefore, no longer depends on the degree of risk of the company.
From the point of view of the concrete possibilities of use, the first approach of determining the rate
of capitalization presents a theoretical-practical structure of greater importance, but presupposes
efficient financial markets, since the entire evaluation is based on indicators that can be traced back
to them.
1.3.3. Choice of the capitalization formula
The determination of the market value, through the discounting of income flows, occurs in many
cases through the use of the perpetual annuity formula, in view of the fact that the company is an
institution destined to last over time.
The attribution, instead, of a limited duration to the production of income (from 3-5 to 8-10 years) is
an assumption not verified in the business reality and tends to be arbitrary, in particular with regard
to the determination of the time boundary.
It is therefore possible to proceed with the calculation of the value of the enterprise, based on the
average normal value of the income flows, estimated synthetically, generated in protracted time
horizons.
Based on the chosen capitalization period, one of the two alternative formulas can be used:
- the limited capitalization W2 = R a
n-I
[4]
- unlimited capitalization W1= R/i [5]
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where:
- W is the market value of the company.
- R is the integrated normal income.
- i is the income capitalization rate.
1.4. The mixed capital-income approach
The mixed approach is based on the belief that in the long term the company's asset value is reflected
in its earnings value and is therefore based on the assumption that the use of assets in the long term
generates an average normal return.
For example, the mixed approach is suitable in the case of companies with large capital holdings,
which temporarily do not have a normal income capacity. In these cases, the mixed criterion is able
to capture the value linked to the temporary capacity for differential income, with respect to the norm,
under the hypothesis that the remuneration of the assets then returns to normal.
On the basis of the approach in question, the market value of the company is estimated by referring
to the adjusted net equity, calculated on the basis of the simple or complex equity approach, and the
value of the over-revenue that the company is able to produce compared to the average of the
companies in the sector to which it belongs.
The mixed approach "may incorporate different analytical values, including net book value,
liabilities, goodwill and even some specific intangibles (e.g. brands, technologies, customer lists,
etc.)". Goodwill is any future economic benefit arising from a business, an interest in a business or
from the use of a group of assets which has not been separately recognized in another asset. In general
terms, the value of goodwill is the residual amount remaining after the values of all identifiable
tangible, intangible and monetary assets, adjusted for actual or potential liabilities, have been
deducted from the value of a business. It is typically represented as the excess of the price paid in a
real or hypothetical acquisition of a company over the value of the company’s other identified assets
and liabilities (IVS 210; https://www.ivsc.org/files/file/view/id/647).
This methodology allows to combine the requirements of objectivity and verifiability, typical of the
capital component, with those of rationality expressed by the estimate of expectations regarding the
future income capacity of the company.
The integration of the equity estimate with the value of the goodwill (positive/goodwill or
negative/badwill) of the company can be particularly opportune when the profitability of the company
shows deviations (positive or negative) with respect to the level considered normal by the investors,
expressed by the rate of remuneration.
The market value is therefore composed of both an equity component and an income component.
In this way, the value of the company is always included in an interval that has as its lower limit the
net assets at liquidation value and as its upper limit the value of the company that can be determined
by the income approach.
The mixed income approach has two different formulations:
(a) average value;
b) independent estimate of goodwill.
A. The average value
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The market value is determined as the average of the adjusted assets and the value obtained for the
capitalisation of income, using the perpetual capitalisation formula.
W = ½ (K+R/i) = K+ ½(R/i-K) [6]
where:
- K is the net equity expressed at replacement cost determined according to the equity approach. It is
an adjusted capital measure, including intangible assets and capital gains, and such as to take into
account any higher market values compared to the accounting data.
- R is the normal income expected for the future.
- i is the normal rate of return for equity, with reference to both the level of operational risk borne by
the company and the level of risk deriving from the particular financial structure chosen.
B. Autonomous goodwill estimate
The mixed equity approach with independent estimate of goodwill provides different alternatives,
formulated in relation to the different assumptions made for the projection and discounting of the
over-returns in order to arrive at the determination of goodwill.
B.1. Limited capitalization of average profit
This alternative considers the market value of the company as the adjusted equity plus the limited
capitalization of the average profit (difference between the expected income and the return on capital
= goodwill), on the basis of the following formula:
W = K+a n¬i* (R-iK) [7]
where:
- i = normal rate in relation to the type of investment. It expresses the measure of the return considered
normal, taking into account the levels of risk incurred by the company.
- i* = discount rate of the over-income.
- n = number of years, defined and limited.
B.2. Unlimited capitalization of average profit
The market value is considered to be the sum of the adjusted net asset value plus goodwill calculated
as the perpetual annuity of the surplus profits. It is based on the assumption that the company valued
is able to generate extra profits for an indefinite period of time, to be taken with caution considering
the intrinsically ephemeral nature of goodwill, which over time inevitably tends to erode. The
formulation is as follows:
W= K+ [(R-iK)/i*] [8]
and provides for the replacement of a n¬i* by 1/i*.
In this case, the market value coincides with that resulting from the application of the income
approach.
1.5. The financial approach
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The financial approach is based on the principle that the market value of the company is equal to the
discounted value of the cash flows that the company is capable of generating. The determination of
the amount of these cash flows is of primary importance in the application of the approach, as is the
consistency of the discount rates adopted.
The doctrine (especially the Anglo-Saxon one) believes that the financial approach is the "ideal"
solution for estimating the market value for limited periods; in fact, it is not possible to make reliable
estimates of cash flows for longer periods.
This approach is of practical importance if the individual investment or companies with high cash
flows (leasing companies, retail trade, public and motorway services, financial trading, vehicle
companies in project financing, etc.) are valued.
Financial evaluation can be particularly appropriate when the company's ability to generate a cash
flow for investors is significantly different from its ability to generate income and forecasts can be
formulated with a sufficient degree of credibility and are demonstrable.
There are two criteria for determining cash flows:
A. The cash flow available to shareholders
The first configuration considers the only flow available for members' remuneration. It is a measure
of cash flow that takes into account the financial structure of the company (levered cash flow). It is
the cash flow that remains after the payment of interest and the repayment of capital shares and after
the coverage of capital expenditures necessary to maintain existing assets and to create the conditions
for business growth.
The cash flow for the shareholders is determined from the operating income:
Net profit (loss)
+ amortization/depreciation and provisions
+ divestments (- investments) in technical equipment
+ divestments (- investments) in other assets
+ decrease (- increase) in net operating working capital
+ increases (- decreases) in loans
+ capital increases (- decreases)
= Cash flows available to shareholders (Free cash flow to equity)
The discounting of the free cash flow for the shareholders takes place at a rate equal to the cost of the
shareholders' equity. This flow identifies the theoretical measure of the company's ability to distribute
dividends, even if it does not coincide with the dividend actually paid.
B. The cash flow available to the company (Free cash flow to the firm)
The second configuration of flows is the one most used in the practice of company valuations, given
its greater simplicity of application compared to the methodology based on flows to partners.
This one is a measure of cash flows totally independent of the financial structure of the company
(unlevered cash flows) that is particularly suitable to evaluate companies with high levels of
indebtedness, or that do not have a debt plan. In these cases, the calculation of the cash flow available
to shareholders is much more difficult because of the volatility resulting from the forecast of how to
repay debts.
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This methodology is based on the operating flows generated by the typical management of the
company, based on the operating income available for the remuneration of own and third party means
net of the relative tax effect.
Unlevered cash flows are determined by using operating income before taxes and financial charges.
Net operating income
- taxes on operating income
+ amortization/depreciation and provisions (non-monetary operating costs)
+ technical divestments (-investments)
+ divestments (-investments) in other assets
+ decrease (-increase) in operating working capital
= Cash flow available to shareholders and lenders (operating cash flow)
The cash flow available to the company is therefore determined as the cash flow available to
shareholders, plus financial charges after tax, plus loan repayments and capital repayments, minus
new borrowings and flows arising from capital increases.
The difference between the two approaches is therefore given by the different meaning of cash flows
associated with debt and capital repayments.
Cash flows from operating activities are discounted to present value at the weighted average cost of
capital.
This configuration of flows offers an evaluation of the company as a whole, independent from its
financial structure. The value of the debt must be subtracted from the value of the company in order
to rejoin the value of the market value, obtained through the cash flows for the shareholders.
The relationship between the two concepts of cash flow is as follows:
cash flow available to the company = cash flow available to shareholders + financial charges
(net of taxes) + loan repayments - new loans
From a practical point of view, the cash flow is often determined by adding algebraically to the net
result of the balance sheet the income components that, although affecting this net result, do not
involve financial flows.
Typically, companies add to the net result the amortizations and the provisions, in order to sterilize
the effect of it and therefore the result would be:
cash flow = net result + amortization/depreciation and provisions
Cash flow estimates can be applied to any type of asset. The differential element is represented by
the duration. Many assets have a defined time horizon, while others assume a perpetual time horizon
such as shares.
Cash flows can therefore be estimated using a normalized projection of cash flows that it uses,
alternatively:
unlimited capitalization W1= F.C. / i [10]
limited capitalization W2 = F.C. a n¬i [11]
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where W1 and W2 represent the present value of future cash flows.
The discount rate to be applied to expected cash flows is determined as the sum of the cost of equity
and the cost of debt, appropriately weighted according to the degree of capitalization of the company
in question (the ratio between equity and debt).
The cost of debt capital is easy to determine, as it can be inferred from the financial statements of the
company; the cost of equity or share capital, which represents the minimum rate of return required
by investors for equity investments, is instead more complex to process.
Once the present value of the cash flows has been determined, the calculation of the market value W
of the company to be valued may correspond:
(a) the unlevered cash flow approach:
+= DVR
WACC
CF
W
0
[12]
(b) the levered cash flow approach:
 =

+  [13]
where:


= present value of operating cash flows

= present value of net cash flows
VR = terminal value of the residual value
D = initial net financial position (payables - receivables)
The residual value is the result of discounting the value attributed to the capital of the company
operating at the time n (before which the cash flows are estimated analytically). It is often the greater
component of the global value W (above all in intangible-intensive companies) and tends to zero if
the time horizon of the capitalization is infinite (VR / = 0).
The two variants of methodologies give the same result if the value of the enterprise, determined
through the cash flows available to the lenders, is deducted from the value of the net financial debts.
Operating cash flows (unlevered) and net cash flows for shareholders (levered) are determined by
comparing the last two balance sheets (to dispose of changes in operating CCN, fixed assets, financial
liabilities, employee severance indemnity and shareholders' equity) with the income statement of the
last year, as can be seen in Figure 1. which shows the accounting scheme of the cash flow statement.
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Figure 1. - Cash flow statement and link with the cost of capital
Cash flow statement
EBIT (A
-
statutory
)
Depreciation, amortization and provisions
Cash flow from operating activities (GOP) (A)
±
Operating CCN variation
±
Change in fixed assets
= Operating cash flow (unlevered cash flow) (B)
-
Financial charges
± Change in net financial liabilities
± Change in employee severance i
ndemnity
±
Extraordinary income and charges
-
Taxes
± Variazione patrimonio netto
= Net cash flow for shareholders (levered cash flow) (C)
Reconciliation statement
:
Closing cash and cash e
quivalents
-
Opening cash and cash e
quivalents
= Change in cash flow (D) = (C)
The net cash flow for the shareholders coincides with the free cash flow and therefore with the
dividends that can be withdrawn, once it has been verified that sufficient internal liquidity resources
remain in the company which, associated with the ability to raise capital from third parties and
shareholders, are such as to allow the company to find adequate financial coverage for the investments
deemed necessary to maintain the company's continuity and remain on the market in economic
conditions (minimum objectives) as well as for the creation of incremental value in favour of
shareholders, who exercise the role of residual claimants (being, as subscribers of risk capital, the
only beneficiaries of the variable net returns, which, as such, are residual and subordinate with respect
to the fixed remuneration of the other stakeholders).
The estimate of cash flows can be applied to any type of activity.
The differential element is the service life. Many activities have a defined time horizon, while others
assume a perpetual time horizon such as shares.
The discounted cash flow (DCF) model can be complemented with real options.
1.6. Empirical approaches
The market value identifies:
(a) the value attributable to a share of the capital, expressed at stock exchange prices;
To be discounted at the
Weighted average cost of
capital (WACC)
To be discounted at the
equity cost of capital (Ke)
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(b) the price of the controlling interest or of the entire share capital;
(c) the traded value for the controlling capital of comparable undertakings;
(d) the value derived from the stock exchange quotations of comparable undertakings.
Sometimes comparable trades of companies belonging to the same product sector with similar
characteristics (in terms of cash flows, sales, costs, etc.) are used.
In practice, an examination of the prices used in negotiations with companies in the same sector leads
to quantifying average parameters:
price / EBIT
price / cash-flow
price / book-value
price / earnings
price / dividend
These reports seek to estimate the average rate to be applied to the company being assessed. However,
there may be distorting effects of prices based on special interest rates, on a particular historical
context, on difficulties of comparison.
In financial market practice, the multiples methodology is frequently applied. On the basis of
multiples, the company's value is derived from the market price of certain quantitative company
characteristics referring to comparable listed companies, such as net profit, before tax or operating
profit, cash flow, equity or turnover.
The attractiveness of the multiples approach stems from its ease of use: multiples can be used to
obtain quick but dirty estimates of the company's value and are particularly useful when there are a
large number of comparable companies listed on the financial markets and the market sets correct
prices for them on average.
Precisely because of the simplicity of the calculation, these indicators are easily manipulated and
susceptible to misuse, especially if they refer to companies that are not entirely similar. Since there
are no identical companies in terms of entrepreneurial risk and growth rate, the assumption of
multiples for the processing of the valuation can lead to misleading forcing.
The use of multiples can be implemented through:
A. use of fundamentals;
B. use of comparable data:
B.1. comparable companies;
B.2. comparable transactions.
The first approach links multiples to the fundamentals of the company being assessed: profit growth
and cash flow, dividend distribution ratio and risk. It is equivalent to the use of cash flow discounting
models.
For the second approach it is necessary to distinguish whether it is a valuation of comparable
companies or comparable transactions.
In the case of comparable companies, the approach estimates multiples for a company by observing
similar companies. The problem is to determine what is meant by similar companies. In theory, the
analyst should check all the variables that influence the multiple.
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In practice, companies should estimate the most likely price for a non-listed company, taking as a
reference some listed companies, operating in the same sector and considered homogeneous. Two
companies can be defined as homogeneous when they present, for the same risk, similar
characteristics and expectations on the part of investors of returns similar to those of the company to
be evaluated.
The calculation technique is as follows
- hired a company whose price is known (P1),
- a variable closely related to its value (X1)
whence the ratio (P1)/(X1), it is assumed that this ratio also applies to the company to be valued, for
which the size of the reference variable (X2) is known.
Therefore
(P1)/(X1) = (P2)/(X2) [14]
multiplier
so that the desired value P2 will be:
P2 = X2 [(P1)/(X1)] [15]
According to widespread estimates, the main factors to establish whether a company is comparable
are:
- size;
- belonging to the same sector;
- financial risks (leverage);
- historical trends and prospects for the development of results and markets;
- geographical diversification;
- degree of reputation and credibility;
- management skills;
- ability to pay dividends.
Founded on comparable transactions, the basis of valuation is information about actual negotiations
(or mergers) of similar, i.e. comparable, companies.
The use of profitability parameters is usually considered to be the most representative of company
dynamics.
Among the empirical criteria, the approach of the multiplier of the EBITDA (Earning Before Interest,
Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) is widely diffused, to which the net financial position must
be added algebraically, in order to pass from the estimate of the enterprise value (total value of the
company) to that of the equity value (value of the net assets). The formulation is as follows:
W = average prospective EBITDA * Enterprise Value / sector EBITDA =
Enterprise Value of the company
And then:
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Equity Value = Enterprise Value ± Net Financial Position
The Economic Value Added (EVA®)
According to the Economic Value-Added approach, the creation of value by the company is measured
by the differential, as long as it is positive, between the company's profitability rate and the cost of
the resources used to achieve it.
In a nutshell, it can be said that EVA is a performance indicator given by the difference between the
return on capital employed and its cost.
The value of the company is obtained by discounting the future flow of the extra-values thus
determined and adding the initial value of the invested capital. In summary:
EVA = (NOPAT / Ci - WACC)*invested capital [16]
where:
Return on investment = NOPAT / Invested Capital
WACC is the weighted average cost of capital.
The total value of a company according to the EVA methodology is given by the sum of the Capital
invested and the EVA that the company will be able to produce over the years.
Company value = Net invested capital + Sum of current annual EVA values + Residual value -
Net financial debt
The first element to be identified is the invested capital, understood as the sum of the net working
capital and the net fixed assets. For a correct use of the approach, the value of the invested capital
must be appropriately adjusted with respect to the amounts directly inferable from the financial
statements data. In particular, the capital invested is the calculation of the EVA produced each year,
a direct function of the return on investment, expressed as the difference between the return on
investment and the cost of capital multiplied by the capital invested.
The return on capital is in practice the operating income net of operating taxes, meaning by operating
taxes the sum of taxes actually paid and taxes saved through deductions from financial charges (tax
shield).
1.7. Potential tax liabilities
An important problem posed by the valuation of companies (in particular through the equity
approach) is the need to estimate, on the capital gains that emerge, the potential tax burdens.
As is well known, in fact, the re-expression at current values of the assets and liabilities of the
company to be valued can cause differences in value (positive or negative) to arise. These differences
are only figurative, as they are neither realized nor detectable from an accounting point of view.
In theory, each positive difference in value corresponds to a tax levy, and each negative difference
corresponds to a tax saving. These are, clearly, potential loads and in any case deferred, as are the
potential differences in value to which they refer.
In determining the potential tax charges, it is also necessary to take into account any previous losses
incurred by the company that can be carried forward. In this case, it will be appropriate to offset the
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capital gains ascertained, divided over time in proportion to the period of their possible occurrence,
with the losses equally divided over time up to the fifth year (or indefinitely, if the company has
carried them over in the first three years).
1.8. Majority premiums and minority discounts
The market value of a company represents the theoretical exchange value attributable to all the shares
that make up the share capital.
Particular problems arise when estimating the value of shares of various sizes. In principle, the value
of a certain number of shares should be a function of two elements:
- the size of the capital shares making up the package;
- the rights which they give to the purchaser.
It follows that the value of a package of shares is not always exactly proportional to the market value
of the share capital represented; therefore, in valuation problems, the existence of majority premiums
and minority discounts must be taken into account.
The majority shareholder has some advantages (private benefits) over the minority shareholders:
the allocation of profits is sometimes influenced by the particular interests of the control group
and its objectives;
direct and indirect remuneration;
establishment of privileged channels for finding the factors of production and the
remuneration of particular services;
notoriety;
other subjectively appreciable advantages.
Against these advantages, the majority premium is formed, i.e. the exchange value attributable to the
majority package. The latter does not coincide with the analogous value referred to the market value
of the company proportionally fractioned on the basis of the corresponding share of own capital; in
fact, there is an extra quantum which corresponds to the majority premium.
Therefore, majority premiums are recognized for the value of share packages which assure the control
of the companies, that is, the exercise of a series of faculties and powers (with the consequent
advantages) to take - through the ordinary shareholders' meetings or, even more extraordinary, with
reference to the constitutive and/or deliberative quorums - all the fundamental decisions for the
management of the company, or a large part of them.
According to normal market practice (but also according to international practice), a minority
discount is applied to small shareholdings (especially if lower than 10%), which do not allow the use
of particular rights, often classifiable in the order of 25% - 35%, to which corresponds, on the other
hand, an analogous majority premium of the same amount (so that the overall value does not vary,
the minority discount being specular with respect to the majority premium).
The calculation of the majority premiums and of the minority discounts is influenced by the
marketability of the securities, linked to the listing or not on the Stock Exchange.
The maximization of the majority premium – and of the minority discount - is around 50%: 51% will
in fact be proportionally worth much more than 49%, while 90% will have a value just over
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proportional with respect to 10%. This is for a series of reasons, among which the circumstance that
a stake of just over 50% allows control to be achieved by minimizing the financial outlay and to have
the majority, at the level of the constitutive quorum and, a fortiori, deliberative also in the
extraordinary shareholders' meeting.
As the percentage of control increases (tending to 100%), the amount of the majority premium
decreases (until it disappears completely, in the case of totalitarian control). It is therefore possible to
determine a series of intervals within which to identify majority bonuses and minority discounts
which, being specular, represent a zero sum game.
Valuation practice typically identifies the following benchmarks for the majority premium and, in the
same way, the minority discount:
Majority share Majority premium Minority share Minority discount
From 51% to 65% From +35% to + 25% From 35% to 49% From - 25% to – 35%
From 65% to 75% From + 20% to + 10 % Da 25% a 35% From -20% to – 10%
From 75 % to 90 % Up to 10 % Da 10% a 25% Up to – 10%
1.9. The control approach
Once the most suitable evaluation approach has been defined, it is useful to use another evaluation
approach as well, in order to check the evaluation carried out with the main approach.
The use of a control approach is applied in all cases where it is possible to estimate the market value
of the company from different angles, complementary to each other, in order to arrive at a range of
values, within which the market value must be positioned.
The comparison between a so-called main approach and a "control" approach can lead to even
significant displacements in absolute terms, especially if the average reference values are high, and it
is however to be considered appropriate if, from a relative point of view, the deviations between the
two approaches do not exceed an indicatively identifiable percentage in the order of 10% - 15%.
1.10. The accounting value of intangible assets
The accounting treatment of intangible assets is a prerequisite for their valuation. The issue is also
very complex, given that intangible assets are often not directly accounted for in the balance sheet or,
in some cases, only appear in the income statement, under costs.
For example, it should be noted that goodwill can be recorded among the assets only if acquired for
consideration and this provision is valid, in substance, also for the know-how (the costs of which
appear in various items of the income statement, not always easily grouped). In the context of the
evaluation process, this aspect constitutes one of the main critical points.
In the attribution of a value to intangible assets, it is also necessary to take into account the income
capacity they generate, without which it is difficult to assign a specific value to the "intangible".
1.10.1. Intangible assets and capitalized costs
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Accounting practice tends to divide intangible assets into two categories:
(a) intangible assets in the strict sense;
b) intangible assets not represented by assets.
The first category includes patents, intellectual property rights, concession or rights, licences and
trademarks; the second category includes capitalized costs, such as start-up and expansion costs, bond
issue discounts, study and research costs, design costs, advertising and propaganda costs and
representation costs (...).
Capitalized costs (intangible assets not represented by assets, like all elements not identifiable with
certainty and not separable from the company) are not independently transferable and therefore do
not represent intangible "assets".
The valuation of intangible assets cannot fail to take into account the above mentioned subdivision
into specific (strictly speaking) and generic (not represented by assets) intangible assets: the former
are normally subject to a separate estimate, which mainly uses the criterion of the cost of reproduction
or the incremental income that the intangible asset guarantees.
According to the accounting principle OIC 24 4.), "intangible fixed assets are assets normally
characterized by the lack of tangibility. They are made up of costs which do not exhaust their
usefulness in a single period but show the economic benefits over a period of several years".
Intangible fixed assets include:
- deferred charges (start-up and expansion costs; development costs);
- intangible assets (industrial patents and intellectual property rights; concessions, licences,
trademarks and similar rights);
- goodwill;
- intangible assets in progress;
- advances.
Future economic benefits arising from an intangible asset include revenues from the sale of products
or services, cost savings or other benefits arising from the use of the intangible asset by the company.
Despite the recent alignment of OIC 24 to IAS 38, there are still significant differences between the
two standards. In other words, some "intangible assets" qualifying as intangible assets under national
accounting standards are not qualifying as intangible assets under international standards and vice
versa.
These circumstances are particularly relevant in the case of first-time adoption or transactions
qualifying as business combinations under IFRS 3, in which the acquirer is an IAS adopter while the
acquiree is an entity that adopts national accounting standards. This is because on such occasions
there may be a need to eliminate assets that do not qualify as intangible assets under IAS 38 or to
recognise intangible assets that are intangible assets under IAS 38 but not under OIC 24.
At the initial recognition stage, there are differences, for example, in start-up and expansion costs,
personnel training costs, advertising costs and development costs and trademarks. Start-up and
expansion costs, i.e. costs incurred in the start-up or expansion phases, are recognized in the balance
sheet according to OIC 24, while according to IAS 38 they are recognized in the income statement.
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Personnel training or advertising costs incurred in connection with the goodwill of a new company
or business can also be capitalized, under certain conditio, while they must be charged to the income
statement in accordance with IAS 38.
As regards trademarks (as well as newspaper titles and similar rights), these ones can be recorded as
an asset under intangible assets (both if generated internally and if acquired from third parties), while
according to IAS 38 they must be recorded under intangible assets only if they are acquired from
third parties (also as a result of a business combination).
Furthermore, according to IAS 38, intangible assets can be initially recognized not only at cost, but
also at fair value, in accordance with the revaluation model criterion. This model, which in any case
provides for the carrying out of amortization and impairment tests, is, in practice, difficult to apply,
due to the absence of an active market for intangible assets.
1.10.2. Accounting
The continued growth of intangible investments is the hallmark of developed economies, initiating
significant changes in the business models, strategies and performance of business enterprises.
Accounting standardsetters, however, by and large, are oblivious to this worldwide development
(Lev, 2018).
Intangible fixed assets are classified in the macro class of assets.
Amortization of intangible assets is accounted for in the income statement.
The book value of intangible assets is expressed by the sources of information available from the
balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement, in accordance with the format shown in
Figure 2.
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Figure 2. - The integrated equity - economic - financial - empirical and market valuation
Balance sheet
Δ Implicit goodwill
Δ Equity capital gain
Δ Tangible and
intangible
fixed assets Δ equity
Δ Net operating working
capital
Δ Net financial position
Income statement
Operating monetary revenues
-
operating monetary costs
= EBITDA
-
amortization, depreciation, provisions and w
rite
-
downs
= EBIT (A – B )
+/
-
balance of financial management
+/
-
balance of extraordinary operations
= Pre-Tax Profit
-
taxes
= Net result
1.11. Valuation of intangible assets
In terms of intangible resources, specific valuation issues arise, which also derive from the nature of
these assets. In this context, the reproducibility of such goods, the absence of rivalry in consumption
Cash flow statement
EBIT
+ amortization, depreciation, provisions and write-downs
= Operating cash flow
+/- Δ Net operating working capital
+/- Δ fixed assets
= Operating cash flow (unlevered)
+/- extraordinary income/expense
+/- financial income/expense
+/- Δ other activities
- taxes
+/- Δ financial debts
+/- Δ shareholders’ equity
= Net Cash Flow
Basic capital
method
Intangible
gain
Equity
approach
Market value of
equity
Mixed
equity/income
method
Invested Capital =
raised capital= Enterprise Value
Market
multiples-
comparable
companies
Income
method
Market interest
rates- other
macroeconomic
variables
Financial
method
Market
Prices
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(the use of a branded product by a consumer does not prejudice a simultaneous use by others) and
scalability can be noticed (examined below in para. 1.14.).
The empirical approaches are based on the practical observation of the market prices of the intangible
goods, identical in characteristics, from which derive formulas and parameters of evaluation. The use
of practical criteria is dictated by the speed of updating the value of the fixed assets in similar and
homogeneous companies.
Analytical approaches, on the contrary, are more reliable because they are accepted by theory and
consolidated by practice, even if they are often less intuitive.
The three principal valuation approaches described in IVS 105 Valuation Approaches used-
individually or in a complementary way - by professional practice for the economic estimation of the
value of intangible assets are (see also Figure 3.):
1. the market approach;
2. the cost approach (reconstruction or replacement capital);
3. the (incremental) income approach.
According to the valuation practice, the appraisal of an intangible asset can be made by reference to
each of the three known valuation approaches. In selecting the most appropriate approach, the expert
should consider the characteristics of the intangible asset and its reproducibility, the nature of the
benefits it is able to generate for the owner (current or potential) and the user and the existence or
otherwise of a reference market.
Some intangibles, such as trademarks and patents (Salinas, 2009), are particularly complex to
evaluate (Moro Visconti, 2012), considering their intrinsic "immaterial" nature and different
(complementary) approaches of evaluation, quantitative and qualitative, are traditionally used by the
evaluation practice (Lagrost et al., 2010).
Valuation issues are even more complex for some intangibles, such as know-how (Moro Visconti,
2013), industrial secrets, unpatented research and development costs, goodwill, etc. ..., which are
characterized by limited or no negotiability, greater information asymmetries and less defined legal
boundaries, particularly in certain specific sectors.
Also, with reference to intangible assets not registered or specifically protected, such as know-how,
the valuation is subject to high inter-temporal variability, being anchored to provisions aimed at
drawing up the "strategic, industrial and financial plans" applicable to the joint-stock companies.
Variability is incorporated in the risk to be considered in the estimates and for this purpose the
information contained in the report on operations can provide valuable insights.
The breadth of the possible valuation interval is demarcated, at its extremes, by upper and lower
limits, in the case of (full) going concern (full business continuity) or in break-up liquidation
scenarios, in which intangible resources traditionally lose most of their value, especially if they are
not independently negotiable or can be synergistically linked to other assets; in the case of
discontinuity, the "organized complex of assets" frames the company is completely eliminated. The
different value gradations also reflect the possibilities of growth and, with them, the possible
scenarios to which the estimates can be associated.
The choice of approaches to be used, in the context of those mentioned above or of further variations,
depends on the type of intangible resource and on the purposes and context of the evaluation, but also
on the ease with which reliable and significant information can be found on the resource and on the
market in which it is strategically positioned.
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Figure 3. - Approaches of valuation of intangible assets
Of the different approaches, the complementarity in identifying - from different angles - the
multifaceted aspects of the intangible object of evaluation, suitable to allow an integrated evaluation,
must be grasped: for example, the relief from royalties are also in function of the incomes or
incremental cash flows that derive from the exploitation of the intangible resource and that interact
also with the market surplus value or the multipliers of comparable companies; the incremental
patrimony derives from an accumulation in the years of differential income; the costs of reproduction
estimate the future benefits and the independent estimate of the average differential goodwill between
patrimonial approaches and incomes. The different approaches should theoretically lead to similar
results, although the relief from royalty and reproduction cost approach sometimes tend to provide
lower valuations than the differential income approach or market comparisons.
The choice of approaches to be used, within the framework of those mentioned above or further
variants, depends on the type of intangible and the purpose and context of the valuation, but also on
the ease with which reliable and meaningful information can be found on the intangible asset and on
the market in which it is positioned.
Method of valuation of intangible a
ssets
Market method
Cost method
Expected income method
(incremental)
Royalty relief
Price (volume) premium
Greenfield method
Distributor method (Multi
-
period
excess earnings and Profit split)
Price/Net
equity
Technological
factors/real options
Operating
leverage
Financial
leverage
Income statement
(Including GOP)
Cash flow
statement
(including GOP)
WACC
/
Market
weights
Incremental cash flow/
discounted cash flows
EV / EBITDA
Differential income
with or without
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The following is a detailed description of the different valuation approaches (cost, income and
market) mentioned above.
Cost approach
According to this approach, the value of an intangible asset is determined by the sum of the capitalized
costs, incurred for the realization of the intangible or to be incurred to reproduce it (restoration of
rights and brand accreditation represented, in general, by advertising, promotional and distribution
network investments ...).
The limitation of this approach lies in the fact that it does not consider maintenance costs and the
opportunity cost of time and that it is not applicable to assets capable of generating income.
The main difficulties in applying this approach relate to the difficulty in finding costs incurred in the
past, especially if the costs have been incurred over several years and have not been capitalized.
There are broadly two main approaches that fall under the cost approach: the replacement cost and
the reproduction cost. However, most intangible assets do not have physical form that can be
reproduced and assets such as software which can be reproduced generally derive value from their
function/utility rather than their exact lines of code. As such, the replacement cost is most commonly
applied to the valuation of intangible assets
Replacement cost approach: it assumes that a market participant would pay no more for the asset than
the cost that would be incurred to replace the asset with a substitute of comparable utility or
functionality.
Income/financial approach
It is based on past and future economic benefits that can be linked to an intangible, both in terms of
license revenues (royalties) and incremental revenues.
In the context of income approaches, intangible assets have value to the extent that they can
incorporate a competitive advantage in the form of multi-period excess earnings. This is a purely
income estimate, in which intangible assets act as Primary Income Generating Assets. Income
approaches are based on estimates of future economic benefits, for example through discounted cash
flows.
In fact, the income approaches also include financial ones: thus the estimate of incremental cash flows
or the criterion of discounted cash flows, functionally linked to the market approaches from which it
derives some parameters (in fact, market) for the estimate of the value of shareholders' equity and
financial debts, within the weighted average cost of capital (WACC).
The main variants are:
1. The Relief-from royalty approach: which allows to estimate the income of the intangible
asset by deducting from the notional royalties that would be paid to a third party for the use
of the intangible under license any direct and indirect costs of maintenance/development of
the asset itself not already deducted from the notional royalty;
2. The premium profit approach or with-and-without approach: indirect approach of
determining the economic advantage (premium price), which consists in comparing the
performance of the company that disposes of the intangible asset in question with that of a
similar company without such an asset;
3. The Excess earnings approach: to be used to estimate the value of an asset that plays a
significant or primary role, on the basis of which the notional income is obtained by
calculating the income that the enterprise would record in the event that it were disposed of
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the ownership of all the other assets in order to regain the right to use them through licensing
or rental or rental contracts. The concepts behind the excess earnings approach were first
described in 1920 in the United States Internal Revenue Services’ Appeals and Revenue
Memorandum (ARM) 34. Whether applied in a single-period, multi-period, or capitalized
manner, the key steps in an excess earnings approach are:
(a) forecast the amount and timing of future revenues driven by the subject intangible
asset and other supporting (ie contributory assets).
(b) forecast the amount and timing of expenses that are required to generate the revenue
from the subject intangible asset and related contributory asset.
(c) adjust the expenses to exclude those related to creation of new intangible assets. Profit
margins in the excess earnings approach may be higher than profit margins for the overall
business because the excess earnings approach excludes investment in new intangible
assets;
4. The Greenfield Approach: the value of the subject intangible is determined using cash flow
projections that assume the only asset of the business at the valuation date is the subject
intangible. All other tangible and intangible assets must be bought, built or rented;
5. The Distributor approach: a variation of the Multi-period excess earnings approach
sometimes used to value customer-related intangible assets. As distributors generally only
perform functions related to distribution of products to customers rather than development of
intellectual property or manufacturing, information on profit margins earned by distributors
is used to estimate the excess earnings attributable to customer related intangible assets. The
distributor approach is also like the relief-from-royalty approach when a Profit split is used to
estimate an appropriate royalty rate.
6. Real options used to evaluate flexible investment projects with uncertain outcomes (typically
patents).
7. Discounting of differential (incremental) income or cash flows: this is based on quantifying
and discounting the specific benefits and advantages of the intangible asset compared to
"normal" situations, i.e. products for example not marked or covered by a patent. Incremental
income is obtained by the difference between revenues and costs relating to the intangible
asset, with discounting of the differential flows and with the exclusion of extraneous or
immaterial income components;
Market approach
It is based on a comparison with similar assets, in terms of income or incremental assets, or on the
analysis of comparable transactions and market multipliers.
The main limitation of this approach concerns the information asymmetries structurally connected
with the secrecy of intangible assets, which make the information necessary for comparisons difficult
to find.
Package transactions involving multiple assets or intangibles make the valuation of stand-alone
intangibles on the basis of an empirical approach more complicated. These difficulties are even more
evident considering that, from an accounting point of view, according to IAS 38, there is no active
market for intangible assets, which tend to be not accounted for, and their fair value seems difficult
to estimate.
The main approaches used in this approach are as follows:
1. empirical approach: the incomes attributable to the exploitation of a given intangible asset are
multiplied by an expressive coefficient of the strategic strength of the asset, which depends on factors
such as leadership, loyalty, market positioning, trends, marketing investments, internationality, legal
protection ...;
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2. valuation of the differential (incremental) assets, through indicators of the market surplus value,
such as the Q of Tobin, which relates the market value of the activities of a company to their
replacement value; if the index is higher than the unit, this is due to the presence of an implicit
goodwill which can depend, among other things, on the value (not accounted for) of the brand or the
patent.
3. Price / Book Value index, which compares the stock market price (of a branded or other intangible
listed company) to the book net assets, bringing out a surplus value (if the index is greater than 1)
partly attributable to intangible assets.
1.12. Intangibles with a defined and indefinite useful life
The useful life of an intangible good is the period of time during which it can be conveniently used.
The estimate of the useful life of the intangible assets allows to discriminate between those:
1. with a defined useful life, subject to systematic amortization (as also prescribed by the international
accounting standard IAS 38) and an estimate of the residual useful life;
2. with an indefinite useful life, subject to impairment testing at least once a year (IAS 36).
The determination of the residual useful life of the intangible assets is an important element in the
evaluation process, in order, first, to define the time horizon. According to the evaluation practice, all
the approaches of evaluation of the intangible assets require, in fact, an estimate of their residual
useful life.
The useful life:
- coincides with the period of time during which the intangible asset can produce cash flows;
- requires maintenance costs, especially if the useful life is indefinite or very long;
- must be estimated considering obsolescence and senescence.
The estimate of the residual useful life is particularly important also for the purposes of bankability
connected with the exploitation of the intangible asset. In synthesis:
- useful life is the period during which the company expects to be able to use the asset. It can also be
determined by the quantities of units of output (or equivalent) that it is estimated can be obtained
using the asset;
- Amortization is the allocation of the cost of an intangible asset over its estimated useful life using a
systematic and rational approach, regardless of the results achieved during the period;
- the value to be amortized is the difference between the cost of the intangible asset, determined
according to the criteria set out in the principle, and, if determinable, its residual value;
- the residual value of an intangible asset is the estimated realizable value of the asset at the end of
its useful life.
IAS 38 (paragraph 12) defines an intangible (intangible) asset as "an identifiable asset, of a non-
monetary nature, without physical substance".
Future economic benefits arising from an intangible asset may include income from the sale of
products or services, cost savings or other benefits arising from the use of the asset by the company
(IAS 38, paragraph 17).
Roberto Moro Visconti – roberto.moro@unicatt.it – www.morovisconti.com
26
An intangible asset shall be recognized as such only if (IAS 38, paragraph 21):
(a) it is probable that the expected future economic benefits that are attributable to the asset will flow
to the company;
(b) the cost of the asset can be measured reliably.
Accounting for an intangible asset is based on its useful life. An intangible asset with a finite useful
life is amortized, while an intangible asset with an indefinite useful life is not amortized (IAS 38,
paragraph 87).
Among the factors that affect the estimation of useful life, IAS 38 (paragraph 90.) identifies the
following:
(a) the expected use of the asset or by the group companies to which it belongs;
(b) the typical production life cycles of the asset and public information about estimates of the useful
lives of assets used in a similar way;
(c) technical, technological, commercial or other obsolescence;
(d) the stability of the economic sector in which the asset operates and changes in demand in the
market for the products or services generated by the asset;
(e) the actions that actual or potential competitors are expected to take;
(f) the level of maintenance expenditure necessary to obtain the future economic benefits expected
from the asset;
(g) the period of control over the asset and the legal or similar limits on the use of the asset;
(h) whether the useful life of the asset depends on the useful life of other assets.
The 2017 OCSE transfer pricing guidelines distinguish between:
(a) commercial intangibles: patents, know-how, industrial designs and ornamental models used to
produce a good or to provide a service;
(b) marketing intangibles, understood as a special category of commercial intangibles, including
trade-marks, trade names, customer lists, distribution channels, symbols or logos or unique names
which have promotional value.
There are other, more precise classifications which distinguish first of all between intangible goods
linked to marketing and technology (Brugger, 1989), to which should be added the world of the
Internet (hence the subtitle of this study).
1.13. Surplus intangible assets
The surplus assets indicate:
1. ancillary capital, which expresses the current value of assets that are not relevant to the performance
of operating activities, as they are not instrumental to the company's operations;
2. components subject to independent valuation.
These elements may include intangible assets, which have an impact both on ancillary capital and on
the normalization of income.
Roberto Moro Visconti – roberto.moro@unicatt.it – www.morovisconti.com
27
Surplus assets are generally included in adjusted equity approaches or in mixed capital-income
approaches, as an additional component that is added to the base values.
1.14. Operating leverage and scalability
The operating leverage illustrates the degree to which an increase in sales is passed on to the operating
result (expressed by the difference between sales and fixed and variable operating costs): if the
company has a significant fixed cost structure and negligible variable costs, once it reaches a break-
even point, the increase in sales tends to be reflected almost entirely in an increase in operating result
(Earnings Before Interests and Taxes - EBIT).
In companies with a high intensity of intangible assets (such as technological start-ups, royalty
companies, Internet companies, etc.), the scalability of business models guaranteed by the operating
leverage can be significant and lead to strong increases in economic margins as sales grow. This case
is destined to have a significant impact on the valuation.
Operating leverage is the ratio of the percentage change in operating profit (EBIT) to the percentage
change in sales (V):
Operating Leverage
VV
EBITEBIT
/
/
=
The elements that influence the operating lever are:
selling prices,
volumes,
variable costs,
fixed costs.
Some variables that determine EBIT are controllable by management, others are uncontrollable or
only partially controllable.
Consider an income statement in which variable costs are separated from fixed costs (limited to
negative income components to be included in EBIT).
1 Revenues
2 (variable costs)
3 = Contribution margin (1-2)
4 (fixed costs)
5 = Operating income = EBIT (3-4)
The total contribution margin is the product between the unit contribution margin and the quantities
produced/sold (or services provided). The unitary contribution margin is in turn mainly determined
by the "price-to-revenue" relationship of the products sold and by the "price-to-cost" relationship of
the variable production factors.
The more a company has a fixed cost structure (invariant to the increase in quantities produced and
sold), the more the value of the operating leverage will increase. If, on the other hand, a company has
only variable costs, the operating leverage will be of unit value: the contribution margin will tend to
Roberto Moro Visconti – roberto.moro@unicatt.it – www.morovisconti.com
28
coincide with EBIT and to double EBIT it will be necessary to double sales (which grow at the same
rate as variable costs and contribution margin).
The contribution margin can be increased:
a) widening the profitability margin (spread) "price/cost/price/revenue";
(b) improving the efficiency of the use of variable inputs;
c) increasing volumes (the quantity produced/sold).
Fixed" costs are defined as those costs that do not vary with the variation in production or those costs
that define the company's production capacity in the medium/short term. Among the costs generally
included in this category, we consider: the costs of industrial, administrative and commercial
structure, research and development costs, advertising and depreciation.
Particularly important in technological start-ups are start-up costs, which are independent of sales
volumes and can therefore be classified as fixed costs, even if their repetitiveness over time tends to
diminish. R&D costs are relevant for technological start-ups with a high technological content
(Internet Service Providers, software companies, telecommunications companies linked to the
Internet ...); advertising costs are particularly relevant for portals, virtual banks and other companies
that have direct contacts with the public (initial batches; maintenance costs ...). Depreciation costs are
high in capital-intensive companies (e.g. Internet infrastructure providers ...).
Labor costs tend to be fixed only in part, as they are partly represented by stock options whose
remuneration depends on the trend in the market value of the security, which is normally significantly
influenced by EBIT.
A useful indicator to consider is the Return on Sales (ROS), which relates the operating profitability
to sales, expressing the marginality in percentage. The indicator can be linked to other profitability
indicators such as Return on Equity (ROE) and Return on Investment (ROI):
Where:
- Rn/Pn = net income / net worth = ROE
- V/Ci = turnover of sales on invested capital
- Ro/V = ROS
- Ci/Pn = invested capital (= raised capital = financial debt + net worth) / net worth
- Rn/Ro = net profit/operating profit (EBIT)
The degree of operational leverage (DOL) is a synthetic indicator of the degree of operational risk
that characterizes the typical economic combination of the company and is determined by comparing
the contribution margin in absolute value (TR, total revenues - TVC, total variable costs) to the
operating income (OI = TR - CVT - FC, fixed costs):
DOL = (TR - TVC) / (TR - TVC - FC) = TCM / OI
Scalability indicates the ability of a business model to generate incremental demand (additional
revenue) economically, i.e. without significantly increasing costs.
Roberto Moro Visconti – roberto.moro@unicatt.it – www.morovisconti.com
29
The concept can be interpreted, in terms of operational leverage, by emphasizing the role of
minimizing variable costs, typical of many technological start-ups: in this case, the increase in
revenues creates a virtuous circle and reflects almost entirely on EBIT.
The scalability of intangible assets makes it possible to see a growth in revenues accompanied by a
less than proportional increase in variable costs. This has a positive impact on economic and financial
margins, generating a driving force that improves the rating and bankability of intangible-intensive
companies.
The sometimes explosive effect of this phenomenon can be observed in highly successful companies
(such as Amazon, Alphabet/Google, Facebook, etc.) based on digital business models, where, thanks
to the scalability effect, after reaching economic break-even, the higher revenues are almost entirely
transferred to operating margins (Gross Operating margin/EBITDA and operating result).
Simulations of profitability and cash flows can be usefully used within prospective ratings and
bankability indicators that improve the ability to assess creditworthiness.
The bankability of intangible assets is based on a paradox that although they have a lower collateral
value than real estate (or even tend to zero, if they are considered intangible such as know-how or
goodwill in the absence of business continuity) they have a high capacity to produce incremental
economic-income flows, to be used primarily to service debt.
1.15. Resource Based View and Balanced Scorecard: introductory remarks
The strategic evaluation of intangible assets is complementary to the economic-financial evaluation
examined in summary in the previous paragraphs.
In this context, it notes the Resource Based View (RBV), which is based on the importance of the
internal variables of an organization compared to the external variables. For RBV, intangible
resources and human resources are the most important because they are rare and complex and
therefore more difficult to imitate. They can therefore have a greater impact in terms of competitive
advantage, which is the strategic basis for achieving higher performance, in terms of profitability,
than the average of competitors. According to RBV, the competitive advantage derives from greater
efficiency and the possession of rare and difficult to imitate resources. The company is understood as
a portfolio of skills and value-added activities.
Intangible resources can, for example, coincide with: knowledge, innovation, access to information,
corporate identity, customer loyalty, relations with stakeholders, professionalism and motivation of
human resources.
Developed by Kaplan and Norton since 1992, the Balanced Scorecard represents an alternative to the
models for the integrated management of company resources and proposes an innovative approach
for measuring company performance according to a vision that goes beyond the traditional one,
limited only to the financial perspective.
The Balanced Scorecard represents a technique for identifying and measuring the critical success
factors underlying the competitive advantage obtained by the company through the use of intangible
resources.
The basic idea of the model is to indicate in a "scorecard" a summary of the fundamental financial
and non-financial indicators, through which to measure the company's performance and prospects for
the future.
In the conceptual framework of the model, financial performance is not the primary focus on which
the company must concentrate, as this is rather the natural and consequent result of a balanced process
of achieving other strategic objectives.
Roberto Moro Visconti – roberto.moro@unicatt.it – www.morovisconti.com
30
In the logic of the model, intangible assets have economic value to the extent that their use is aligned
with the implementation of business strategies and related to the priorities set by the overall strategy
of the company. The more the intangible resource is needed to support the implementation of business
strategies, the more important it is in the processes of generating cash flows for the company, the
greater its strategic and economic value.
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Purpose The main purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between intangible investments (R&D, advertising, training, software acquisitions and quality) and the ability of firms to generate future OCF (hereafter cash‐flow from operations). Design/methodology/approach The authors developed dynamic panel models to estimate the relationship between intangible investments and three subsequent periods cash flows. These models are estimated using generalized method of moments (GMM), on a panel of 300 observations related to 50 Tunisian manufacturing firms and six years of data (2001‐2006). Findings The findings show a positive and significant effect of intangible investments on future operating cash flows. First, this result confirms the main hypothesis of resource based view (RBV). Second, it is found that investments in R&D, quality, and advertising have significant effects on future cash flows from operations. While the effect of R&D activities and quality persists until the third lagged period, the effect of advertising expenditures is rapid and temporary. Practical implications The investigation provides an empirical validation on the role of intangible investment in generating and sustaining competitive advantage. The significant effect of R&D and quality expenses indicates the role of these activities in adding value to the firm product, and hence in the creation of competitive advantage which allows the firm to manage the components of its operating cycle, especially cash received from customers, resulting in superior future cash flows from operations. Originality/value First, the use of cash‐flow basis, as an alternative approach to accrual basis, for intangibles valuation avoids the shortcomings of accrual‐based performance measures in forecasting future operating cash flows because of earnings management practices. Second, the majority of the research dealing with the valuation of intangibles has been conducted in the context of developed countries, therefore in terms of the relevance of intangible investments significantly less is known about emerging economies. The choice of Tunisia, in this regard, is a particularly important contribution to the research on emerging economies.
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Purpose This paper aims to assess how to select an appropriate intellectual property valuation method according to the valuation situation and context. Design/methodology/approach The article describes the difference between the quantitative and qualitative methods and principles. It reviews the principal approaches and methods used to evaluate an intellectual property asset and proposes a framework to help the evaluators to select an appropriate valuation method. The paper initiates a discussion on the parameters and requirements that influence the choice of an IP valuation method in order to reach the expected valuation result. Findings This paper provides useful guidelines for any evaluator who would be responsible for executing an IP valuation and who would be faced with the difficult task of choosing an appropriate IP valuation method. It is the intention of this paper to develop a synthesised and integrated procedure for the selection of an IP valuation method. Research limitations/implications The limitation of this paper is that not all of the existing methods were described and taken into account in the final proposed procedure. The authors made a series of assumptions and a selection of the methods that may not be entirely shared by other researchers and practitioners. The authors are conscious that this constitutes a first proposal in the selection process of the most relevant IP valuation method. Further discussions and developments would be carried on in the future to enhance the proposed procedure. Originality/value This paper proposes a framework to orientate the choice of an appropriate IP valuation method according to the context and situation in which the valuation is to be implemented.
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The analysis investigates the combined leverage effect of a fixed capacity decision (fixed cost) plus debt on the risk of equity returns. It is argued that the traditional DOL-DFL calculation is incorrect. A correct calculation is given, using the fact that the capacity decision is endogenous to the firm's decision process. The analysis reveals that the capacity decision partially offsets the effect on equity risk of increasing business risk or debt. However, this ability is lost at high levels of debt.