Asset stripping

Asset stripping is the deliberate removal of assets from a business. This situation usually arises after a business has been acquired, and the acquiring entity believes that some acquired assets can be sold off at an enhanced price. By doing so, the acquirer can recover its invested funds and turn a profit. Asset stripping is more likely to occur when the stock price of a business has fallen below the book value of its tangible assets. Such a stock price decline is more likely to occur when a business has repeatedly reported poor results and investors have little confidence in management.

For example, a business is comprised of three subsidiaries, which produce sports equipment, golf carts, and backhoes, respectively. Each of these businesses is worth $40 million, while the entity as a whole is valued at $100 million. An acquirer could buy the firm for $100 million and then sell off each of the subsidiaries for $40 million each, resulting in a $20 million profit.

A company may inflict asset stripping on itself when it is attempting to avoid a hostile takeover. By selling off its "crown jewel" assets, managers hope to make the remaining entity look less interesting to any potential acquirers. Of course, taking this step also degrades the financial performance of the business.

Asset stripping can be more beneficial when it is conducted specifically to improve the financial stability of a firm. For example, a company could be carrying too much debt, so management decides to sell off a subsidiary in order to generate sufficient cash to pay down a large part of the outstanding debt.

A likely result of asset stripping is the loss of jobs, especially when the sale of assets involves moving subsidiaries to new locations.

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