Canada: Working Capital Adjustments: Lessons From De Santis And Iacobucci v Doublesee Enterprises Inc.

In complex M&A transactions, there could be a significant delay between the initial valuation of a target company and the closing of the deal. As we explained in our previous article, " Net working capital adjustments: what's the deal?", parties can protect themselves against fluctuations in value during this period by negotiating purchase price adjustments (PPAs). According to the American Bar Association's 2016 Canadian Private Target Mergers & Acquisitions Deal Points Study, the most common PPA is the working capital adjustment (which was included in 83% of recent Canadian M&A deals with a PPA).

Mechanics of working capital adjustments

Typically, working capital adjustments provide for an adjustment to the purchase price based on the level of working capital at closing. For purposes of negotiating the purchase price, the parties assume that the target company's working capital at closing would be at a certain level or range at closing (target amount). At closing, if working capital falls below the target amount, the purchase price is reduced to reflect the fact that the purchaser may need to inject additional cash into the business. Conversely, if working capital at closing is greater than the target amount, the purchase price is increased to ensure that the purchaser does not receive a windfall.

While the working capital adjustment may be conceptually straightforward, it is important not to lose sight of the details. For example, when should the adjustment take place? A closing balance sheet needs to be prepared to form the basis of the adjustment, but it generally cannot be finalized immediately on the date of closing. Therefore, parties typically agree to make the adjustment post-closing once the closing balance sheet is finalized (usually 30-90 days after closing). This can be done in either a single adjustment, or a two-part adjustment where an initial adjustment is made based on estimated information at closing and a final "true-up" when the finalized information becomes available.

De Santis and Iacobucci v Doublesee Enterprises Inc.

Failure to account for such timing considerations could lead to uncertainty and disputes, as demonstrated by the recent Ontario Superior Court decision in De Santis and Iacobucci v Doublesee Enterprises Inc., 2018 ONSC 400 (De Santis).

In De Santis, parties entered into a Share Purchase Agreement (SPA) for the sale of Mavis Auto Collision and Auto Glass Ltd. (TargetCo) at a total price of $465,000. The SPA contained a unique type of working capital adjustment which provided that, on closing, TargetCo must not have negative working capital, otherwise there would be a corresponding reduction in the purchase price dollar-for-dollar. In other words, the target amount of working capital was effectively zero. As it would make no commercial sense for the vendors to leave additional funds in TargetCo in excess of this target amount, the SPA allowed TargetCo to declare and make a "special dividend" of any excess prior to closing.

On the day prior to closing, the vendors' accountant required additional time to calculate the amount of excess working capital in TargetCo. The vendor therefore prepared, signed, and delivered a draft resolution for a special dividend to the purchaser's lawyers, which showed a dividend payable on the day prior to closing but the amount of the dividend was blank. The purchaser's lawyers did not object or take issue with this approach. Several months later, the vendors' accountant finally calculated the excess working capital in TargetCo, which was $68,263. However, when the vendors requested that the special dividend resolution be signed and paid out, the purchasers refused on the basis that the special dividend must be declared and paid prior to closing. The vendors brought an action to, among other things, recover the amount of the special dividend or alternatively rectify the SPA to deal with the special dividend payment.

The Court dismissed a motion for summary judgment by the defendant purchasers, as these issues require a trial for a fair and just determination. Despite the vendors' non-compliance with the SPA, the Court found that the purchasers' failure to object to the vendors' approach could establish that the parties agreed to the payment of the special dividend after closing. In any event, the purchasers are estopped from denying entitlement to the special dividend or rectification.

Takeaways

Aside from the obvious lesson that a prudent party intending to rely on a contractual term should clearly object to any instance of noncompliance, De Santis demonstrates the importance of addressing timing considerations when drafting a working capital adjustment. Simply put, the working capital adjustment in De Santis was neither practical nor realistic. If the vendors in De Santis were to strictly comply with the requirement to dividend out excess working capital prior to closing, they would have had to finalize the balance sheet weeks or months in advance or otherwise rely on an estimate. Such information could be outdated and inaccurate upon closing, thereby defeating the purpose of the working capital adjustment.

In addition to timing, drafters of working capital adjustments should also keep in mind other key considerations as outlined in our previous article. For example, should an adjustment arise from any deviation from a working capital "peg", or only deviations outside of an acceptable band of working capital? Which party's responsibility is it to prepare the closing balance sheet? What standard of accounting applies to the balance sheet? Should a portion of the purchase price be held back by the purchaser or placed into escrow pending the adjustment? As adjustments to purchase price directly impact the core of the deal, addressing such considerations in advance is critical to the transaction.

About Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP

Norton Rose Fulbright is a global law firm. We provide the world's preeminent corporations and financial institutions with a full business law service. We have 3800 lawyers and other legal staff based in more than 50 cities across Europe, the United States, Canada, Latin America, Asia, Australia, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

Recognized for our industry focus, we are strong across all the key industry sectors: financial institutions; energy; infrastructure, mining and commodities; transport; technology and innovation; and life sciences and healthcare.

Wherever we are, we operate in accordance with our global business principles of quality, unity and integrity. We aim to provide the highest possible standard of legal service in each of our offices and to maintain that level of quality at every point of contact.

For more information about Norton Rose Fulbright, see nortonrosefulbright.com/legal-notices.

Law around the world
nortonrosefulbright.com

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions