The Business A 19-year-old company providing a backcountry smorgasbord: white-water rafting (good for 75% of revenues), bicycle tours, high-mountain jeep excursions, and a concierge service that coordinates travel to all of the above.

Financial Summary

(in $ thousands) 1988 1989 1990*
Sales $452 $524 $482

Recast pretax net 135 133 130 income before debt, depreciation, & owner compensation *projected

Price: $350,000

Outlook Wilderness operators are dependent on a finite resource: the permits that grant access to the great outdoors. Renewable annually, the permits amount to ownership of market share, and this company has plenty of them. After taking over other operators -- and acquiring their permits -- it currently uses just 80% of its allotted number of "man-days" per year on the river. The unsold but locked-up slots may come in handy: raft riding and mountain biking are still on the rise nationwide.

Price Rationale What's for sale here are the permits, sundry sporting equipment, and a business with a history of roughly 25% net margins. Still, wilderness companies are tough to price. Rafting operators in desirable areas -- such as this one -- can sell for amounts as great as the annual gross (which renders this price a bargain), amounts equal to 2.6 times cash flow (this company's multiple is 2.7), or amounts that resist all statistical explanation. This is art, not science.

Pros A proprietary grip on market share, allegedly loyal employees, cooperative current owners (who'll remain nearby and available for hire), and room to grow. Winter activities could be expanded without capital expense. An antidote to corporate burnout?

Cons What's market share worth if the market is evaporating? Last year business at this particular location was down. Is this a yuppie pastime whose time has passed?

-- Alessandra Bianchi

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Inc. has no stake in the sale of the business featured and cannot confirm the accuracy of financial or other information offered by the seller. Inquiries should be directed to Mountain Business Brokers, in Aspen, Colo. n