Mark Schaub

About 90 percent of the China expats have left, estimates China lawyer Mark Schaub in his latest China Chitchat. And while new people are slowly coming back, those who left are struggling to sell their business, he says. What are the challenges they are facing, Schaub summarizes in the first part.

Mark Schaub:

Much more challenging is selling a business in which you have invested your lifeblood and passion for a long time. There is a combination of guilt (selling and leaving the employees behind) and fear (will those employees, the buyer, bank, authorities screw me over on the way out).

No entrepreneur I have met so far seems happy about the prospect – compounding this is that most are not so young (sorry guys – if I know you and you fall in this category and you are reading this then rest assured I did not mean you – I consider you to be very young) so this sale also impacts their future financial security.

The seller really needs to think in detail about what they want and weigh up differences but also think about how things will turn out for your specific business (i.e. special challenges or leverage or weaknesses you may have).

The common challenges with such sales are 1) certainty of obtaining purchase price overseas; 2) dealing with potential Chinese buyers and selecting the right one; 3) dealing with the transition (i.e. period in which you remain a minority shareholder and still be employed by the target); and 4) securing that the second sale (i.e. the minority shareholding) is secured in respect of timing, certainty and value.

Another challenge is to run the project quickly and smoothly. For almost all entrepreneurs selling a company in China is a new experience. It is common and sensible to be apprehensive and cautious, but a slow process is not in your interest as the seller.

Accordingly, to optimize the process you need to: 1) have a clear strategy, 2) understand what is possible, 3) have game played in your head all possible scenarios, 4) have a trusted group of advisors, 5) everyone is well briefed about your business and interests, and 6) carefully select the buyer (this is NOT just the highest price but also integrity and capability to implement).

More in the China Chitchat.



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