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SOTP Meaning: Explanation of Sum-of-the-Parts Valuation & Model

Sum-of-the-parts, or SOTP, is a modeling and valuation approach frequently used by bankers and investors. This guide will provide background on the methodology, cover how to employ it yourself, and just give you a real explanation of the term if you’re simply curious about the meaning of SOTP.

A graphic depicting the meaning of SOTP, or sum of the parts analysis

SOTP Meaning: Overview of the Sum-of-the-Parts (SOTP) Methodology

As previewed above, SOTP refers to the practice of segmenting businesses into different parts for the purposes of valuation or financial modeling. When employing this tactic, your model will have different builds for revenue and expenses across each of the ‘Parts,’ ultimately building to segment-level EBITDAs. From there, the sum of each of the segment-level EBITDAs will generally equal the EBITDA of the whole company (WholeCo).

We’ll cover this in more detail later, but these segments are also helpful to piece together individual valuations. You can apply different multiples (such as EV / EBITDA or other) to the financials of each segment to arrive at an isolated value for that business line. When added together, the sum of the individual values will be your estimate of the value of the WholeCo business.

When is Sum-of-the-Parts (SOTP) Used?

SOTP is commonly used when you’re modeling or valuing a company with different business lines. This may be a large conglomerate, such as General Electric, or a smaller company that has a few different offerings.

Large Conglomerate

In the General Electric scenario, it’s obvious that you will need different revenue and expense builds for each segment of the business. The company has (or had) offerings across aviation, healthcare, and financial services, among many others. Each of these will have totally different product offerings, revenue models, cost bases, and valuations.

To create an SOTP model and valuation for GE, you would build out financial models for the individual components, including valuations if desired, and sum them together to arrive at the WholeCo level (combined company and entire business).

Smaller Business Example

The SOTP methodology is not limited to the largest multinational conglomerates (as some textbooks might have you believe). In reality it’s also hugely helpful for any business with disparate divisions or offerings.

Take the example of a local printing business. They do only two things, on-site document printing at a brick and mortar location, and online printer eCommerce.

An SOTP financial model of the document printing business will require analysis of foot traffic, print volumes, pricing by document type, cost of paper, rent, store employees, etc. Conversely, the eCommerce model will require a view on number of printers sold, price of the printers, cost of goods for the printers, warehouse space, online advertising expense, etc.

The most important point for this business will be the difference in value between the two segments. Say the physical printing business is quite a bit bigger in terms of both revenue and EBITDA.

In a normal model this would drive the value of the business in a proportional manner. However, investors and the market are much more excited about the faster growing, higher margin, scalable eCommerce business. This offering is more recent and has smaller revenue/EBITDA, but will drive outsize value in a transaction.

This dynamic is reflected by applying different multiples to each segment, say 8.0x EV / EBITDA for the physical printing and 15.0x EV / EBITDA for the eCommerce business.

SOTP Meaning: Practical Scenarios

Now that we’ve covered types of businesses where an SOTP approach is helpful, we can now talk about a few practical applications. Note that SOTP is helpful and used frequently in standard M&A and capital raising transactions, but these specific scenarios are even more tailored to the approach.

  • A corporate carve-out or spin-off: if Homie Capital submits an offer to buy GE’s Healthcare business, GE’s bankers will complete an SOTP model and valuation with a focus on the Healthcare division. This will be helpful in determining a price they’d be willing to take, as well as understanding if they are able to unlock value for shareholders. This could be the case if Homie Capital’s offer is at 15x EV / EBITDA, GE is trading on the market at 10x EV / EBITDA, and GE’s bankers believe it will continue to trade at 10x EV / EBITDA even after the divestiture. A sale of Healthcare to Homie Capital thus realizes an extra five turns of value on the division.
  • Biotechnology applications: Homie Pharmaceutical Co. has five different marketed compounds and a pipeline of 10 additional compounds in varying stages of clinical development. Each compound targets a different disease, has a different probability of success, and has a different loss of exclusivity (patent expiration). It’s standard in biotech banking to conduct a by-compound SOTP analysis of the business to understand the value of each product and clinical program. Homie Pharma Co.’s products nearing their patient cliff will have limited value, its blockbuster marketed products will have a ton of value, its late-stage clinical products may have moderate value, and its riskiest early-stage products may have little or even no value.

SOTP Structure in a Financial Model

This section will cover some common best practices to ensure you build a great sum-of-the-parts model and valuation. Every scenario will be different, but these guidelines should be broadly applicable.

Tab Structure

At the highest level, your Excel tab structure will become more important in an SOTP model. With multiple parts, you’ll need to make sure that your model is easy to navigate, both for yourself and for anyone else who looks at your work. The last thing you need is a disorganized mess — you’ll hate your life and be way more likely to make mistakes.

For simple models, keep each part isolated on different tabs, with revenue and expenses building to EBITDA for that segment. Each tab should be colored differently and obviously named appropriately.

For more complex models with advanced revenue and expense builds you’ll likely need multiple tabs for each segment. In this case, make sure they’re grouped together and all coded in the same color (use different colors for each segment).

An example of proper Excel tab structure when building a sum-of-the-parts financial model.

The Consolidated Business

Your model should have a consolidated view of the business with clear breakdowns of the different parts. This will most likely take the form of a consolidated Income Statement, with revenue, expense, and EBITDA subtotals reflecting the business lines included.

Valuation

Generally, the valuation work should take place on one tab for all segments, Link in the various EBITDAs and make sure you clearly label everything. Not rocket science. Then make sure you have clear inputs for multiples (or other valuation drivers) across each of the segments. Show a per segment valuation, and then show a sum of the segment-level valuations as your WholeCo valuation.

Just don’t forget to subtract net debt and any non-operating items, then you’re good to go.

SOTP Meaning: Closing Thoughts

This should provide a helpful base to understand the meaning of SOTP modeling. It’s an incredibly useful methodology and worth spending time on. There is no doubt it will come up over and over again through your career, and can be a helpful tool in your toolkit.

Sam Hillier

Sam Hillier is a reporter at Transacted covering private equity and investment banking. He previously spent time as an investment professional focused on direct buyouts, as well as an earlier strategic advisory stint.