Date: 18/08/2020 | Corporate & Commercial
The below should help to explain a bit more about what completion accounts are and why they matter.
1. What are ‘completion accounts’?
At its most basic, completion accounts are simply a set of accounts that are drawn up for the purpose of the sale / acquisition and then used as a basis for adjusting the price. The adjustment will be based on how certain numbers in the completion accounts compare against the equivalent target numbers that were agreed before completion.
These accounts are normally (but not always) drawn up to the date of completion so will not be finalised until after completion. Given that, the share purchase agreement needs to provide a mechanism for their preparation and agreement.
2. Who produces them – and what if we don’t agree?
The share purchase agreement should contain a detailed process for the preparation of these accounts – from the responsibility for preparing the first draft right through to the ability to appoint an independent expert to resolve any disputes.
Each step of this process will be subject to a time limit (with the potential for deemed acceptance if you don’t challenge in time) so it is vital that you keep a note of these deadlines and respond in time. The idea is that each step of the process reduces the matters in dispute so that if ultimately you do have to appoint an expert then they are only looking at a very small number of matters.
3. Speak to your professional advisors – ASAP
No matter whether you are buying or selling, the drafting of completion account provisions is an area in which you, your lawyer and accountant will need to work closely - so early engagement with those advisors is vital.
Just some of the points that will need to be considered are:
It is not unusual for the parties and their advisors to exchange draft spreadsheets in relation to these accounts ahead of completion. This is something that I recommend as it can be very helpful to clarify exactly how certain accounting adjustments / treatments will impact on the numbers and the overall price. However, it is vital to remember that these spreadsheets don’t take the place of the completion account mechanism in the SPA – if the principles on which those spreadsheets are based don’t make it into the SPA then they won’t be enforceable!
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