Private equity is, strictly speaking, a type of equity and one of the asset classes consisting of equity securities and debt in operating companies that are not publicly traded on a stock exchange. However, the term has come to be used to describe the business of taking a company into private ownership in order to restructure it before selling it again at a hoped-for profit.
A private equity investment will generally be made by a private equity firm, a venture capital firm or an angel investor. Each of these categories of investors has its own set of goals, preferences and investment strategies; however, all provide working capital to a target company to nurture expansion, new-product development, or restructuring of the company’s operations, management, or ownership.
Bloomberg Businessweek has called "private equity" a rebranding of leveraged-buyout firms after the 1980s. Common investment strategies in private equity include leveraged buyouts, venture capital, growth capital, distressed investments and mezzanine capital. In a typical leveraged-buyout transaction, a private-equity firm buys majority control of an existing or mature firm. This is distinct from a venture-capital or growth-capital investment, in which the investors (typically venture-capital firms or angel investors) invest in young, growing or emerging companies, and rarely obtain majority control.
The key features of private equity operations are generally as follows.
The strategies private equity firms may use are as follows, leveraged buyout being the most important.
Leveraged buyout, LBO or Buyout refers to a strategy of making equity investments as part of a transaction in which a company, business unit or business assets is acquired from the current shareholders typically with the use of financial leverage. The companies involved in these transactions are typically mature and generate operating cash flows.
Private equity firms view target companies as either Platform companies which have sufficient scale and a successful business model to act as a stand-alone entity, or as add-on / tuck-in / bolt-on acquisitions, which would include companies with insufficient scale or other deficits.
Leveraged buyouts involve a financial sponsor agreeing to an acquisition without itself committing all the capital required for the acquisition. To do this, the financial sponsor will raise acquisition debt which ultimately looks to the cash flows of the acquisition target to make interest and principal payments. Acquisition debt in an LBO is often non-recourse to the financial sponsor and has no claim on other investments managed by the financial sponsor. Therefore, an LBO transaction's financial structure is particularly attractive to a fund's limited partners, allowing them the benefits of leverage but greatly limiting the degree of recourse of that leverage. This kind of financing structure leverage benefits an LBO's financial sponsor in two ways: (1) the investor itself only needs to provide a fraction of the capital for the acquisition, and (2) the returns to the investor will be enhanced (as long as the return on assets exceeds the cost of the debt).
As a percentage of the purchase price for a leverage buyout target, the amount of debt used to finance a transaction varies according to the financial condition and history of the acquisition target, market conditions, the willingness of lenders to extend credit (both to the LBO's financial sponsors and the company to be acquired) as well as the interest costs and the ability of the company to cover those costs. Historically the debt portion of a LBO will range from 60%–90% of the purchase price. Between 2000–2005 debt averaged between 59.4% and 67.9% of total purchase price for LBOs in the United States.
A private equity fund, ABC Capital II, borrows $9bn from a bank (or other lender). To this it adds $2bn of equity – money from its own partners and from limited partners (pension funds, high-net-worth individuals, etc.). With this $11bn it buys all the shares of an underperforming company, XYZ Industrial (after due diligence, i.e. checking the books). It replaces the senior management in XYZ Industrial, and they set out to streamline it. The workforce is reduced, some assets are sold off, etc. The objective is to increase the value of the company for an early sale.
The stock market is experiencing a bull market, and XYZ Industrial is sold two years after the buy-out for $13bn, yielding a profit of $2bn. The original loan can now be paid off with interest of, say, $0.5bn. The remaining profit of $1.5bn is shared among the partners. Taxation of such gains is at capital gains rates.
Note that part of that profit results from turning the company around, and part results from the general increase in share prices in a buoyant stock market, the latter often being the greater component.
Growth Capital refers to equity investments, most often minority investments, in relatively mature companies that are looking for capital to expand or restructure operations, enter new markets or finance a major acquisition without a change of control of the business.
Companies that seek growth capital will often do so in order to finance a transformational event in their life cycle. These companies are likely to be more mature than venture capital funded companies, able to generate revenue and operating profits but unable to generate sufficient cash to fund major expansions, acquisitions or other investments. Because of this lack of scale these companies generally can find few alternative conduits to secure capital for growth, so access to growth equity can be critical to pursue necessary facility expansion, sales and marketing initiatives, equipment purchases, and new product development.
The primary owner of the company may not be willing to take the financial risk alone. By selling part of the company to private equity, the owner can take out some value and share the risk of growth with partners. Capital can also be used to effect a restructuring of a company's balance sheet, particularly to reduce the amount of leverage (or debt) the company has on its balance sheet.
A Private investment in public equity, or PIPEs, refer to a form of growth capital investment made into a publicly traded company. PIPE investments are typically made in the form of a convertible or preferred security that is unregistered for a certain period of time.
The Registered Direct, or RD, is another common financing vehicle used for growth capital. A registered direct is similar to a PIPE but is instead sold as a registered security.
Mezzanine capital refers to subordinated debt or preferred equity securities that often represent the most junior portion of a company's capital structure that is senior to the company's common equity. This form of financing is often used by private equity investors to reduce the amount of equity capital required to finance a leveraged buyout or major expansion. Mezzanine capital, which is often used by smaller companies that are unable to access the high yield market, allows such companies to borrow additional capital beyond the levels that traditional lenders are willing to provide through bank loans. In compensation for the increased risk, mezzanine debt holders require a higher return for their investment than secured or other more senior lenders. Mezzanine securities are often structured with a current income coupon.
Venture capital or VC is a broad subcategory of private equity that refers to equity investments made, typically in less mature companies, for the launch of a seed or start-up company, early stage development, or expansion of a business. Venture investment is most often found in the application of new technology, new marketing concepts and new products that do not have a proven track record or stable revenue streams.
Venture capital is often sub-divided by the stage of development of the company ranging from early stage capital used for the launch of start-up companies to late stage and growth capital that is often used to fund expansion of existing business that are generating revenue but may not yet be profitable or generating cash flow to fund future growth.
Entrepreneurs often develop products and ideas that require substantial capital during the formative stages of their companies' life cycles. Many entrepreneurs do not have sufficient funds to finance projects themselves, and they must therefore seek outside financing. The venture capitalist's need to deliver high returns to compensate for the risk of these investments makes venture funding an expensive capital source for companies. Being able to secure financing is critical to any business, whether it is a start-up seeking venture capital or a mid-sized firm that needs more cash to grow. Venture capital is most suitable for businesses with large up-front capital requirements which cannot be financed by cheaper alternatives such as debt. Although venture capital is often most closely associated with fast-growing technology, healthcare and biotechnology fields, venture funding has been used for other more traditional businesses.
Investors generally commit to venture capital funds as part of a wider diversified private equity portfolio, but also to pursue the larger returns the strategy has the potential to offer. However, venture capital funds have produced lower returns for investors over recent years compared to other private equity fund types, particularly buyout.
Distressed or Special Situations is a broad category referring to investments in equity or debt securities of financially stressed companies. The "distressed" category encompasses two broad sub-strategies including:
In addition to these private equity strategies, hedge funds employ a variety of distressed investment strategies including the active trading of loans and bonds issued by distressed companies.
Secondary investments refer to investments made in existing private equity assets. These transactions can involve the sale of private equity fund interests or portfolios of direct investments in privately held companies through the purchase of these investments from existing institutional investors. By its nature, the private equity asset class is illiquid, intended to be a long-term investment for buy and hold investors. Secondary investments provide institutional investors with the ability to improve vintage diversification, particularly for investors that are new to the asset class. Secondaries also typically experience a different cash flow profile, diminishing the j-curve effect of investing in new private equity funds. Often investments in secondaries are made through third party fund vehicle, structured similar to a fund of funds although many large institutional investors have purchased private equity fund interests through secondary transactions. Sellers of private equity fund investments sell not only the investments in the fund but also their remaining unfunded commitments to the funds.
Other strategies that can be considered private equity or a close adjacent market include:
The seeds of the US private equity industry were planted in 1946 with the founding of two venture capital firms: American Research and Development Corporation (ARDC) and J.H. Whitney & Company. Before World War II, venture capital investments (originally known as "development capital") were primarily the domain of wealthy individuals and families. In 1901 J.P. Morgan arguably managed the first leveraged buyout of the Carnegie Steel Company using private equity. Modern era private equity, however, is credited to Georges Doriot, the "father of venture capitalism" with the founding of ARDC and founder of INSEAD, with capital raised from institutional investors, to encourage private sector investments in businesses run by soldiers who were returning from World War II. ARDC is credited with the first major venture capital success story when its 1957 investment of $70,000 in Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) would be valued at over $355 million after the company's initial public offering in 1968 (representing a return of over 5,000 times on its investment and an annualized rate of return of 101%). It is commonly noted that the first venture-backed startup is Fairchild Semiconductor (which produced the first commercially practicable integrated circuit), funded in 1959 by what would later become Venrock Associates.
The first leveraged buyout may have been the purchase by McLean Industries, Inc. of Pan-Atlantic Steamship Company in January 1955 and Waterman Steamship Corporation in May 1955 Under the terms of that transaction, McLean borrowed $42 million and raised an additional $7 million through an issue of preferred stock. When the deal closed, $20 million of Waterman cash and assets were used to retire $20 million of the loan debt. Similar to the approach employed in the McLean transaction, the use of publicly traded holding companies as investment vehicles to acquire portfolios of investments in corporate assets was a relatively new trend in the 1960s popularized by the likes of Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway) and Victor Posner (DWG Corporation) and later adopted by Nelson Peltz (Triarc), Saul Steinberg (Reliance Insurance) and Gerry Schwartz (Onex Corporation). These investment vehicles would utilize a number of the same tactics and target the same type of companies as more traditional leveraged buyouts and in many ways could be considered a forerunner of the later private equity firms. In fact it is Posner who is often credited with coining the term "leveraged buyout" or "LBO"
The leveraged buyout boom of the 1980s was conceived by a number of corporate financiers, most notably Jerome Kohlberg Jr. and later his protégé Henry Kravis. Working for Bear Stearns at the time, Kohlberg and Kravis along with Kravis' cousin George Roberts began a series of what they described as "bootstrap" investments. Many of these companies lacked a viable or attractive exit for their founders as they were too small to be taken public and the founders were reluctant to sell out to competitors and so a sale to a financial buyer could prove attractive. Their acquisition of Orkin Exterminating Company in 1964 is among the first significant leveraged buyout transactions. In the following years the three Bear Stearns bankers would complete a series of buyouts including Stern Metals (1965), Incom (a division of Rockwood International, 1971), Cobblers Industries (1971), and Boren Clay (1973) as well as Thompson Wire, Eagle Motors and Barrows through their investment in Stern Metals. By 1976, tensions had built up between Bear Stearns and Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts leading to their departure and the formation of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts in that year.
In January 1982, former United States Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon and a group of investors acquired Gibson Greetings, a producer of greeting cards, for $80 million, of which only $1 million was rumored to have been contributed by the investors. By mid-1983, just sixteen months after the original deal, Gibson completed a $290 million IPO and Simon made approximately $66 million.
The success of the Gibson Greetings investment attracted the attention of the wider media to the nascent boom in leveraged buyouts. Between 1979 and 1989, it was estimated that there were over 2,000 leveraged buyouts valued in excess of $250 million
During the 1980s, constituencies within acquired companies and the media ascribed the "corporate raid" label to many private equity investments, particularly those that featured a hostile takeover of the company, perceived asset stripping, major layoffs or other significant corporate restructuring activities. Among the most notable investors to be labeled corporate raiders in the 1980s included Carl Icahn, Victor Posner, Nelson Peltz, Robert M. Bass, T. Boone Pickens, Harold Clark Simmons, Kirk Kerkorian, Sir James Goldsmith, Saul Steinberg and Asher Edelman. Carl Icahn developed a reputation as a ruthless corporate raider after his hostile takeover of TWA in 1985. Many of the corporate raiders were onetime clients of Michael Milken, whose investment banking firm, Drexel Burnham Lambert helped raise blind pools of capital with which corporate raiders could make a legitimate attempt to take over a company and provided high-yield debt ("junk bonds") financing of the buyouts.
One of the final major buyouts of the 1980s proved to be its most ambitious and marked both a high-water mark and a sign of the beginning of the end of the boom that had begun nearly a decade earlier. In 1989, KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) closed in on a $31.1 billion takeover of RJR Nabisco. It was, at that time and for over 17 years, the largest leveraged buyout in history. The event was chronicled in the book (and later the movie), Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco. KKR would eventually prevail in acquiring RJR Nabisco at $109 per share, marking a dramatic increase from the original announcement that Shearson Lehman Hutton would take RJR Nabisco private at $75 per share. A fierce series of negotiations and horse-trading ensued which pitted KKR against Shearson and later Forstmann Little & Co. Many of the major banking players of the day, including Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Salomon Brothers, and Merrill Lynch were actively involved in advising and financing the parties. After Shearson's original bid, KKR quickly introduced a tender offer to obtain RJR Nabisco for $90 per share—a price that enabled it to proceed without the approval of RJR Nabisco's management. RJR's management team, working with Shearson and Salomon Brothers, submitted a bid of $112, a figure they felt certain would enable them to outflank any response by Kravis's team. KKR's final bid of $109, while a lower dollar figure, was ultimately accepted by the board of directors of RJR Nabisco. At $31.1 billion of transaction value, RJR Nabisco was by far the largest leveraged buyouts in history. In 2006 and 2007, a number of leveraged buyout transactions were completed that for the first time surpassed the RJR Nabisco leveraged buyout in terms of nominal purchase price. However, adjusted for inflation, none of the leveraged buyouts of the 2006–2007 period would surpass RJR Nabisco. By the end of the 1980s the excesses of the buyout market were beginning to show, with the bankruptcy of several large buyouts including Robert Campeau's 1988 buyout of Federated Department Stores, the 1986 buyout of the Revco drug stores, Walter Industries, FEB Trucking and Eaton Leonard. Additionally, the RJR Nabisco deal was showing signs of strain, leading to a recapitalization in 1990 that involved the contribution of $1.7 billion of new equity from KKR. In the end, KKR lost $700 million on RJR.
Drexel reached an agreement with the government in which it pleaded nolo contendere (no contest) to six felonies – three counts of stock parking and three counts of stock manipulation. It also agreed to pay a fine of $650 million – at the time, the largest fine ever levied under securities laws. Milken left the firm after his own indictment in March 1989. On 13 February 1990 after being advised by United States Secretary of the Treasury Nicholas F. Brady, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve, Drexel Burnham Lambert officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The combination of decreasing interest rates, loosening lending standards and regulatory changes for publicly traded companies (specifically the Sarbanes-Oxley Act) would set the stage for the largest boom private equity had seen. Marked by the buyout of Dex Media in 2002, large multibillion-dollar U.S. buyouts could once again obtain significant high yield debt financing and larger transactions could be completed. By 2004 and 2005, major buyouts were once again becoming common, including the acquisitions of Toys "R" Us, The Hertz Corporation, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and SunGard in 2005.
As 2005 ended and 2006 began, new "largest buyout" records were set and surpassed several times with nine of the top ten buyouts at the end of 2007 having been announced in an 18-month window from the beginning of 2006 through the middle of 2007. In 2006, private equity firms bought 654 U.S. companies for $375 billion, representing 18 times the level of transactions closed in 2003. Additionally, U.S.-based private equity firms raised $215.4 billion in investor commitments to 322 funds, surpassing the previous record set in 2000 by 22% and 33% higher than the 2005 fundraising total The following year, despite the onset of turmoil in the credit markets in the summer, saw yet another record year of fundraising with $302 billion of investor commitments to 415 funds Among the mega-buyouts completed during the 2006 to 2007 boom were: EQ Office, HCA, Alliance Boots and TXU.
In July 2007, turmoil that had been affecting the mortgage markets, spilled over into the leveraged finance and high-yield debt markets. The markets had been highly robust during the first six months of 2007, with highly issuer friendly developments including PIK and PIK Toggle (interest is "Payable In Kind") and covenant light debt widely available to finance large leveraged buyouts. July and August saw a notable slowdown in issuance levels in the high yield and leveraged loan markets with few issuers accessing the market. Uncertain market conditions led to a significant widening of yield spreads, which coupled with the typical summer slowdown led many companies and investment banks to put their plans to issue debt on hold until the autumn. However, the expected rebound in the market after 1 May 2007 did not materialize, and the lack of market confidence prevented deals from pricing. By the end of September, the full extent of the credit situation became obvious as major lenders including Citigroup and UBS AG announced major writedowns due to credit losses. The leveraged finance markets came to a near standstill during a week in 2007. As 2007 ended and 2008 began, it was clear that lending standards had tightened and the era of "mega-buyouts" had come to an end. Nevertheless, private equity continues to be a large and active asset class and the private equity firms, with hundreds of billions of dollars of committed capital from investors are looking to deploy capital in new and different transactions.
As a result of the global financial crisis, private equity has become subject to increased regulation in Europe and is now subject, among other things, to rules preventing asset stripping of portfolio companies and requiring the notification and disclosure of information in connection with buy-out activity.
Although the capital for private equity originally came from individual investors or corporations, in the 1970s, private equity became an asset class in which various institutional investors allocated capital in the hopes of achieving risk adjusted returns that exceed those possible in the public equity markets. In the 1980s, insurers were major private equity investors. Later, public pension funds and university and other endowments became more significant sources of capital. For most institutional investors, private equity investments are made as part of a broad asset allocation that includes traditional assets (e.g., public equity and bonds) and other alternative assets (e.g., hedge funds, real estate, commodities).
US, Canadian and European public and private pension schemes have invested in the asset class since the early 1980s to diversify away from their core holdings (public equity and fixed income). Today pension investment in private equity accounts for more than a third of all monies allocated to the asset class, ahead of other institutional investors such as insurance companies, endowments, and sovereign wealth funds.
Most institutional investors do not invest directly in privately held companies, lacking the expertise and resources necessary to structure and monitor the investment. Instead, institutional investors will invest indirectly through a private equity fund. Certain institutional investors have the scale necessary to develop a diversified portfolio of private equity funds themselves, while others will invest through a fund of funds to allow a portfolio more diversified than one a single investor could construct.
Returns on private equity investments are created through one or a combination of three factors that include: debt repayment or cash accumulation through cash flows from operations, operational improvements that increase earnings over the life of the investment and multiple expansion, selling the business for a higher price than was originally paid. A key component of private equity as an asset class for institutional investors is that investments are typically realized after some period of time, which will vary depending on the investment strategy. Private equity investments are typically realized through one of the following avenues:
Large institutional asset owners such as pension funds (with typically long-dated liabilities), insurance companies, sovereign wealth and national reserve funds have a generally low likelihood of facing liquidity shocks in the medium term, and thus can afford the required long holding periods characteristic of private equity investment.
The median horizon for a LBO transaction is 8 years.
The private equity secondary market (also often called private equity secondaries) refers to the buying and selling of pre-existing investor commitments to private equity and other alternative investment funds. Sellers of private equity investments sell not only the investments in the fund but also their remaining unfunded commitments to the funds. By its nature, the private equity asset class is illiquid, intended to be a long-term investment for buy-and-hold investors. For the vast majority of private equity investments, there is no listed public market; however, there is a robust and maturing secondary market available for sellers of private equity assets.
Increasingly, secondaries are considered a distinct asset class with a cash flow profile that is not correlated with other private equity investments. As a result, investors are allocating capital to secondary investments to diversify their private equity programs. Driven by strong demand for private equity exposure, a significant amount of capital has been committed to secondary investments from investors looking to increase and diversify their private equity exposure.
Investors seeking access to private equity have been restricted to investments with structural impediments such as long lock-up periods, lack of transparency, unlimited leverage, concentrated holdings of illiquid securities and high investment minimums.
Secondary transactions can be generally split into two basic categories:
According to an updated 2017 ranking created by industry magazine Private Equity International (published by PEI Media called the PEI 300), the largest private equity firm in the world today is The Blackstone Group based on the amount of private equity direct-investment capital raised over a five-year window. The 10 most prominent private equity firms in the world are:
Because private equity firms are continuously in the process of raising, investing and distributing their private equity funds, capital raised can often be the easiest to measure. Other metrics can include the total value of companies purchased by a firm or an estimate of the size of a firm's active portfolio plus capital available for new investments. As with any list that focuses on size, the list does not provide any indication as to relative investment performance of these funds or managers.
Additionally, Preqin (formerly known as Private Equity Intelligence), an independent data provider, ranks the 25 largest private equity investment managers. Among the larger firms in that ranking were AlpInvest Partners, Ardian (formerly AXA Private Equity), AIG Investments, and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners. Invest Europe publishes a yearbook which analyses industry trends derived from data disclosed by over 1,300 European private equity funds. Finally, websites such as AskIvy.net provide lists of London-based private equity firms.
The investment strategies of private equity firms differ to those of hedge funds. Typically, private equity investment groups are geared towards long-hold, multiple-year investment strategies in illiquid assets (whole companies, large-scale real estate projects, or other tangibles not easily converted to cash) where they have more control and influence over operations or asset management to influence their long-term returns. Hedge funds usually focus on short or medium term liquid securities which are more quickly convertible to cash, and they do not have direct control over the business or asset in which they are investing. Both private equity firms and hedge funds often specialize in specific types of investments and transactions. Private equity specialization is usually in specific industry sector asset management while hedge fund specialization is in industry sector risk capital management. Private equity strategies can include wholesale purchase of a privately held company or set of assets, mezzanine financing for start-up projects, growth capital investments in existing businesses or leveraged buyout of a publicly held asset converting it to private control. Finally, private equity firms only take long positions, for short selling is not possible in this asset class.
Private equity fundraising refers to the action of private equity firms seeking capital from investors for their funds. Typically an investor will invest in a specific fund managed by a firm, becoming a limited partner in the fund, rather than an investor in the firm itself. As a result, an investor will only benefit from investments made by a firm where the investment is made from the specific fund in which it has invested.
As fundraising has grown over the past few years, so too has the number of investors in the average fund. In 2004 there were 26 investors in the average private equity fund, this figure has now grown to 42 according to Preqin ltd. (formerly known as Private Equity Intelligence).
The managers of private equity funds will also invest in their own vehicles, typically providing between 1–5% of the overall capital.
Often private equity fund managers will employ the services of external fundraising teams known as placement agents in order to raise capital for their vehicles. The use of placement agents has grown over the past few years, with 40% of funds closed in 2006 employing their services, according to Preqin ltd. Placement agents will approach potential investors on behalf of the fund manager, and will typically take a fee of around 1% of the commitments that they are able to garner.
The amount of time that a private equity firm spends raising capital varies depending on the level of interest among investors, which is defined by current market conditions and also the track record of previous funds raised by the firm in question. Firms can spend as little as one or two months raising capital when they are able to reach the target that they set for their funds relatively easily, often through gaining commitments from existing investors in their previous funds, or where strong past performance leads to strong levels of investor interest. Other managers may find fundraising taking considerably longer, with managers of less popular fund types (such as US and European venture fund managers in the current climate) finding the fundraising process more tough. It is not unheard of for funds to spend as long as two years on the road seeking capital, although the majority of fund managers will complete fundraising within nine months to fifteen months.
Once a fund has reached its fundraising target, it will have a final close. After this point it is not normally possible for new investors to invest in the fund, unless they were to purchase an interest in the fund on the secondary market.
The state of the industry around the end of 2011 was as follows.
Private equity assets under management probably exceeded $2.0 trillion at the end of March 2012, and funds available for investment totalled $949bn (about 47% of overall assets under management).
Some $246bn of private equity was invested globally in 2011, down 6% on the previous year and around two-thirds below the peak activity in 2006 and 2007. Following on from a strong start, deal activity slowed in the second half of 2011 due to concerns over the global economy and sovereign debt crisis in Europe. There was $93bn in investments during the first half of this year as the slowdown persisted into 2012. This was down a quarter on the same period in the previous year. Private-equity backed buyouts generated some 6.9% of global M&A volume in 2011 and 5.9% in the first half of 2012. This was down on 7.4% in 2010 and well below the all-time high of 21% in 2006.
Global exit activity totalled $252bn in 2011, practically unchanged from the previous year, but well up on 2008 and 2009 as private equity firms sought to take advantage of improved market conditions at the start of the year to realise investments. Exit activity however, has lost momentum following a peak of $113bn in the second quarter of 2011. TheCityUK estimates total exit activity of some $100bn in the first half of 2012, well down on the same period in the previous year.
The fund raising environment remained stable for the third year running in 2011 with $270bn in new funds raised, slightly down on the previous year’s total. Around $130bn in funds was raised in the first half of 2012, down around a fifth on the first half of 2011. The average time for funds to achieve a final close fell to 16.7 months in the first half of 2012, from 18.5 months in 2011. Private equity funds available for investment (“dry powder”) totalled $949bn at the end of q1-2012, down around 6% on the previous year. Including unrealised funds in existing investments, private equity funds under management probably totalled over $2.0 trillion.
Due to limited disclosure, studying the returns to private equity is relatively difficult. Unlike mutual funds, private equity funds need not disclose performance data. And, as they invest in private companies, it is difficult to examine the underlying investments. It is challenging to compare private equity performance to public equity performance, in particular because private equity fund investments are drawn and returned over time as investments are made and subsequently realized.
An oft-cited academic paper (Kaplan and Schoar, 2005) suggests that the net-of-fees returns to PE funds are roughly comparable to the S&P 500 (or even slightly under). This analysis may actually overstate the returns because it relies on voluntarily reported data and hence suffers from survivorship bias (i.e. funds that fail won't report data). One should also note that these returns are not risk-adjusted. A more recent paper (Harris, Jenkinson and Kaplan, 2012) found that average buyout fund returns in the U.S. have actually exceeded that of public markets. These findings were supported by earlier work, using a different data set (Robinson and Sensoy, 2011).
Commentators have argued that a standard methodology is needed to present an accurate picture of performance, to make individual private equity funds comparable and so the asset class as a whole can be matched against public markets and other types of investment. It is also claimed that PE fund managers manipulate data to present themselves as strong performers, which makes it even more essential to standardize the industry.
Two other findings in Kaplan and Schoar (2005): First, there is considerable variation in performance across PE funds. Second, unlike the mutual fund industry, there appears to be performance persistence in PE funds. That is, PE funds that perform well over one period, tend to also perform well the next period. Persistence is stronger for VC firms than for LBO firms.
The application of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in certain states in the United States has made certain performance data more readily available. Specifically, FOIA has required certain public agencies to disclose private equity performance data directly on their websites.
In the United Kingdom, the second largest market for private equity, more data has become available since the 2007 publication of the David Walker Guidelines for Disclosure and Transparency in Private Equity.
There is a debate around the distinction between private equity and foreign direct investment (FDI), and whether to treat them separately. The difference is blurred on account of private equity not entering the country through the stock market. Private equity generally flows to unlisted firms and to firms where the percentage of shares is smaller than the promoter- or investor-held shares (also known as free-floating shares). The main point of contention is that FDI is used solely for production, whereas in the case of private equity the investor can reclaim their money after a revaluation period and make investments in other financial assets. At present, most countries report private equity as a part of FDI.
Apollo Global Management, LLC is an American public equity firm, founded in 1990 by former Drexel Burnham Lambert banker Leon Black. The firm specializes in leveraged buyout transactions and purchases of distressed securities involving corporate restructuring, special situations, and industry consolidations. Apollo is headquartered in New York City, and also has offices in Purchase, New York, Los Angeles, Houston, London, Frankfurt, Luxembourg, Madrid, Singapore, Hong Kong, Delhi, and Mumbai.As of March 2018, Apollo managed over US$247 billion of investor commitments across its private equity, credit and real asset funds and other investment vehicles, making it the second-largest US-based alternative asset management firm. Among the most notable companies currently owned by Apollo are Claire's, Caesars Entertainment Corporation, CareerBuilder, Novitex Enterprise Solutions, ADT, and Rackspace.Carried interest
Carried interest, or carry, in finance, is a share of the profits of an investment paid to the investment manager in excess of the amount that the manager contributes to the partnership, specifically in alternative investments (private equity and hedge funds). It is a performance fee, rewarding the manager for enhancing performance.The manager's carried-interest allocation varies depending on the type of investment fund and the demand for the fund from investors. In private equity, the standard carried-interest allocation historically has been 20% for funds making buyout and venture investments. Notable examples of private equity firms with carried interest of 25% to 30% include Bain Capital and Providence Equity Partners.
In private equity, the distribution of carried interest is directed by a distribution waterfall: to receive carried interest, the manager must first return all capital contributed by the investors and, in certain cases, a previously agreed-upon rate of return (the "hurdle rate" or "preferred return") to investors. Private equity funds distribute carried interest to the manager only upon a successful exit from an investment, which may take years. The customary hurdle rate in private equity is 7–8% per annum.In a hedge fund environment, carried interest is usually referred to as a "performance fee" and because it invests in liquid investments, it is often able to pay carried interest annually if the fund has generated a profit. They have historically centered on 20%, but have had greater variability than those of private equity funds. In extreme cases performance fees reach as high as 44% of a fund's profits but is usually between 15% and 20%.Early history of private equity
The early history of private equity relates to one of the major periods in the history of private equity and venture capital. Within the broader private equity industry, two distinct sub-industries, leveraged buyouts and venture capital experienced growth along parallel although interrelated tracks.
The origins of the modern private equity industry trace back to 1946 with the formation of the first venture capital firms. The thirty-five-year period from 1946 through the end of the 1970s was characterized by relatively small volumes of private equity investment, rudimentary firm organizations and limited awareness of and familiarity with the private equity industry.Fund of funds
A "fund of funds" (FOF) is an investment strategy of holding a portfolio of other investment funds rather than investing directly in stocks, bonds or other securities. This type of investing is often referred to as multi-manager investment. A fund of funds may be "fettered", meaning that it invests only in funds managed by the same investment company, or "unfettered", meaning that it can invest in external funds run by other managers.
There are different types of FOF, each investing in a different type of collective investment scheme (typically one type per FOF), for example a mutual fund FOF, a hedge fund FOF, a private equity FOF, or an investment trust FOF. The original Fund of Funds was created by Bernie Cornfeld in 1962. It went bankrupt after being looted by Robert Vesco.History of private equity and venture capital
The history of private equity and venture capital and the development of these asset classes has occurred through a series of boom and bust cycles since the middle of the 20th century. Within the broader private equity industry, two distinct sub-industries, leveraged buyouts and venture capital experienced growth along parallel, although interrelated tracks.
Since the origins of the modern private equity industry in 1946, there have been four major epochs marked by three boom and bust cycles. The early history of private equity—from 1946 through 1981—was characterized by relatively small volumes of private equity investment, rudimentary firm organizations and limited awareness of and familiarity with the private equity industry. The first boom and bust cycle, from 1982 through 1993, was characterized by the dramatic surge in leveraged buyout activity financed by junk bonds and culminating in the massive buyout of RJR Nabisco before the near collapse of the leveraged buyout industry in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The second boom and bust cycle (from 1992 through 2002) emerged from the ashes of the savings and loan crisis, the insider trading scandals, the real estate market collapse and the recession of the early 1990s. This period saw the emergence of more institutionalized private equity firms, ultimately culminating in the massive Dot-com bubble in 1999 and 2000. The third boom and bust cycle (from 2003 through 2007) came in the wake of the collapse of the Dot-com bubble—leveraged buyouts reach unparalleled size and the institutionalization of private equity firms is exemplified by the Blackstone Group's 2007 initial public offering.
In its early years through to roughly the year 2000, the private equity and venture capital asset classes were primarily active in the United States. With the second private equity boom in the mid-1990s and liberalization of regulation for institutional investors in Europe, a mature European private equity market emerged.Leveraged buyout
A leveraged buyout (LBO) is a financial transaction in which a company is purchased with a combination of equity and debt, such that the company's cash flow is the collateral used to secure and repay the borrowed money. The use of debt, which normally has a lower cost of capital than equity, serves to reduce the overall cost of financing the acquisition. The cost of debt is lower inter alia because interest payments often reduce corporate income tax liability, whereas dividend payments normally do not. This reduced cost of financing allows greater gains to accrue to the equity, and, as a result, the debt serves as a lever to increase the returns to the equity.The term LBO is usually employed when a financial sponsor acquires a company. However, many corporate transactions are partially funded by bank debt, thus effectively also representing an LBO. LBOs can have many different forms such as management buyout (MBO), management buy-in (MBI), secondary buyout and tertiary buyout, among others, and can occur in growth situations, restructuring situations, and insolvencies. LBOs mostly occur in private companies, but can also be employed with public companies (in a so-called PtP transaction – Public to Private).
As financial sponsors increase their returns by employing a very high leverage (i.e., a high ratio of debt to equity), they have an incentive to employ as much debt as possible to finance an acquisition. This has, in many cases, led to situations in which companies were "over-leveraged", meaning that they did not generate sufficient cash flows to service their debt, which in turn led to insolvency or to debt-to-equity swaps in which the equity owners lose control over the business to the lenders.Private equity firm
A private equity firm is an investment management company that provides financial backing and makes investments in the private equity of startup or operating companies through a variety of loosely affiliated investment strategies including leveraged buyout, venture capital, and growth capital. Often described as a financial sponsor, each firm will raise funds that will be invested in accordance with one or more specific investment strategies.
Typically, a private equity firm will raise pools of capital, or private equity funds that supply the equity contributions for these transactions. Private equity firms will receive a periodic management fee as well as a share in the profits earned (carried interest) from each private equity fund managed.
Private equity firms, with their investors, will acquire a controlling or substantial minority position in a company and then look to maximize the value of that investment. Private equity firms generally receive a return on their investments through one of the following avenues:
an initial public offering (IPO) — shares of the company are offered to the public, typically providing a partial immediate realization to the financial sponsor as well as a public market into which it can later sell additional shares;
a merger or acquisition — the company is sold for either cash or shares in another company;
a recapitalization — cash is distributed to the shareholders (in this case the financial sponsor) and its private equity funds either from cash flow generated by the company or through raising debt or other securities to fund the distribution.Private equity firms characteristically make longer-hold investments in target industry sectors or specific investment areas where they have expertise. Private equity firms and investment funds should not be confused with hedge fund firms which typically make shorter-term investments in securities and other more liquid assets within an industry sector but with less direct influence or control over the operations of a specific company. Where private equity firms take on operational roles to manage risks and achieve growth through long term investments, hedge funds more frequently act as short-term traders of securities betting on both the up and down sides of a business or of an industry sector's financial health.Private equity fund
A private equity fund is a collective investment scheme used for making investments in various equity (and to a lesser extent debt) securities according to one of the investment strategies associated with private equity.
Private equity funds are typically limited partnerships with a fixed term of 10 years (often with annual extensions). At inception, institutional investors make an unfunded commitment to the limited partnership, which is then drawn over the term of the fund. From the investors' point of view, funds can be traditional (where all the investors invest with equal terms) or asymmetric (where different investors have different terms).A private equity fund is raised and managed by investment professionals of a specific private equity firm (the general partner and investment advisor). Typically, a single private equity firm will manage a series of distinct private equity funds and will attempt to raise a new fund every 3 to 5 years as the previous fund is fully invested.Private equity in the 1980s
Private equity in the 1980s relates to one of the major periods in the history of private equity and venture capital. Within the broader private equity industry, two distinct sub-industries, leveraged buyouts and venture capital experienced growth along parallel although interrelated tracks.
The development of the private equity and venture capital asset classes has occurred through a series of boom and bust cycles since the middle of the 20th century. The 1980s saw the first major boom and bust cycle in private equity. The cycle which is typically marked by the 1982 acquisition of Gibson Greetings and ending just over a decade later was characterized by a dramatic surge in leveraged buyout (LBO) activity financed by junk bonds. The period culminated in the massive buyout of RJR Nabisco before the near collapse of the leveraged buyout industry in the late 1980s and early 1990s marked by the collapse of Drexel Burnham Lambert and the high-yield debt market.Private equity in the 1990s
Private equity in the 1990s relates to one of the major periods in the history of private equity and venture capital. Within the broader private equity industry, two distinct sub-industries, leveraged buyouts and venture capital experienced growth along parallel although interrelated tracks.
The development of the private equity and venture capital asset classes has occurred through a series of boom and bust cycles since the middle of the 20th century. Private equity emerged in the 1990s out of the ashes of the savings and loan crisis, the insider trading scandals, the real estate market collapse and the recession of the early 1990s which had culminated in the collapse of Drexel Burnham Lambert and had caused the shutdown of the high-yield debt market. This period saw the emergence of more institutionalized private equity firms, ultimately culminating in the massive Dot-com bubble in 1999 and 2000.Private equity in the 2000s
Private equity in the 2000s relates to one of the major periods in the history of private equity and venture capital. Within the broader private equity industry, two distinct sub-industries, leveraged buyouts and venture capital experienced growth along parallel although interrelated tracks.
The development of the private equity and venture capital asset classes has occurred through a series of boom and bust cycles since the middle of the 20th century. As the 20th century ended, so, too, did the dot-com bubble and the tremendous growth in venture capital that had marked the previous five years. In the wake of the collapse of the dot-com bubble, a new "Golden Age" of private equity ensued, as leveraged buyouts reach unparalleled size and the private equity firms achieved new levels of scale and institutionalization, exemplified by the initial public offering of the Blackstone Group in 2007.Private equity secondary market
In finance, the private equity secondary market (also often called private equity secondaries or secondaries) refers to the buying and selling of pre-existing investor commitments to private equity and other alternative investment funds. Given the absence of established trading markets for these interests, the transfer of interests in private equity funds as well as hedge funds can be more complex and labor-intensive.Sellers of private equity investments sell not only the investments in the fund but also their remaining unfunded commitments to the funds. By its nature, the private equity asset class is illiquid, intended to be a long-term investment for buy-and-hold investors, including "pension funds, endowments and wealthy families selling off their private equity funds before the pools have sold off all their assets." For the vast majority of private equity investments, there is no listed public market; however, there is a robust and maturing secondary market available for sellers of private equity assets.
Buyers seek to acquire private equity interests in the secondary market for multiple reasons. For example, the duration of the investment may be much shorter than an investment in the private equity fund initially. Likewise, the buyer may be able to acquire these interests at an attractive price. Finally, the buyer can evaluate the fund's holdings before deciding to purchase an interest in the fund. Conversely, sellers may seek to sell interest for various reasons, including the need to raise capital, the desire to avoid future capital calls, the need to reduce an over-allocation to the asset class or for regulatory reasons.Driven by strong demand for private equity exposure over the past decade, a vast amount of capital has been committed to secondary market funds from investors looking to increase and diversify their private equity exposure.Publicly traded private equity
Publicly traded private equity (also referred to as publicly quoted private equity or publicly listed private equity) refers to an investment firm or investment vehicle, which makes investments conforming to one of the various private equity strategies, and is listed on a public stock exchange.
There are fundamentally two separate opportunities that private equity firms pursued in the public markets. These options involved a public listing of either:
A private equity firm (the management company), which provides shareholders an opportunity to gain exposure to the management fees and carried interest earned by the investment professionals and managers of the private equity firm. The most notable example of this public listing was completed by The Blackstone Group in 2007
A private equity fund or similar investment vehicle, which allows investors that would otherwise be unable to invest in a traditional private equity limited partnership to gain exposure to a portfolio of private equity investments.TPG Capital
TPG Capital (abbrev. for Texas Pacific Group) is an American investment company. It is one of the largest private equity investment firms in the world, focused on leveraged buyouts, growth capital TPG also manages investment funds specializing in growth capital, venture capital, public equity, and debt investments. The firm invests in a broad range of industries including consumer/retail, media and telecommunications, industrials, technology, travel/leisure and health care.
The firm was founded in 1992 by David Bonderman, James Coulter, and William S. Price III. Since inception, the firm has raised more than $50 billion of investor commitments across more than 18 private equity funds.TPG is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, and San Francisco, California. The company has additional offices in Europe, Asia, Australia and other parts of North America.Taxation of private equity and hedge funds
Private equity funds and hedge funds are private investment vehicles used to pool investment capital, usually for a small group of large institutional or wealthy individual investors. They are subject to favorable regulatory treatment in most jurisdictions from which they are managed, which allows them to engage in financial activities that are off-limits for more regulated companies. Both types of fund also take advantage of generally applicable rules in their jurisdictions to minimize the tax burden on their investors, as well as on the fund managers. As media coverage increases regarding the growing influence of hedge funds and private equity, these tax rules are increasingly under scrutiny by legislative bodies. Private equity and hedge funds choose their structure depending on the individual circumstances of the investors the fund is designed to attract.The Blackstone Group
The Blackstone Group L.P. is an American multinational private equity, alternative asset management and financial services firm based in New York City. As the largest alternative investment firm in the world, Blackstone specializes in private equity, credit and hedge fund investment strategies.Blackstone's private equity business has been one of the largest investors in leveraged buyouts in the last decade, while its real estate business has actively acquired commercial real estate. Since its inception, Blackstone has invested in such notable companies as Hilton Worldwide, Merlin Entertainments Group, Performance Food Group, EQ Office, Republic Services, AlliedBarton, United Biscuits, Freescale Semiconductor, Vivint, and Travelport.Blackstone was founded in 1985 as a mergers and acquisitions boutique by Peter G. Peterson and Stephen A. Schwarzman, who had previously worked together at Lehman Brothers. Since then, Blackstone has become the world's largest private equity investment firm. In 2007, Blackstone became a public company via a $4 billion initial public offering to become one of the first major private equity firms to list shares in its management company on the public stock market. Blackstone is headquartered at 345 Park Avenue in Manhattan, New York City, with eight additional offices in the United States, as well as offices in London, Paris, Dublin, Düsseldorf, Luxembourg, Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai, Mumbai, and Dubai.As of 2019, the company's total assets under management were approximately US$ 470 billion dollars.The Carlyle Group
The Carlyle Group is an American multinational private equity, alternative asset management and financial services corporation. It specializes in corporate private equity, real assets, global credit, and investments. In 2015, Carlyle was the world's largest private equity firm by capital raised over the last five years, according to the PEI 300 index.Founded in 1987 in Washington, D.C., by William E. Conway Jr., Daniel A. D'Aniello, and David Rubenstein, the company today has more than 1,575 employees in 31 offices on six continents. On May 3, 2012, Carlyle completed a $700 million initial public offering and began trading on the NASDAQ stock exchange.
Carlyle's corporate private equity business has been one of the largest investors in leveraged buyout transactions over the decade 2004–2014 (or perhaps 2000–2010), Carlyle has invested in Booz Allen Hamilton, Dex Media, Dunkin' Brands, Freescale Semiconductor, Getty Images, HCR Manor Care, Hertz, Kinder Morgan, Nielsen, United Defense, and other companies.Venture capital
Venture capital (VC) is a type of private equity, a form of financing that is provided by firms or funds to small, early-stage, emerging firms that are deemed to have high growth potential, or which have demonstrated high growth (in terms of number of employees, annual revenue, or both). Venture capital firms or funds invest in these early-stage companies in exchange for equity, or an ownership stake, in the companies they invest in. Venture capitalists take on the risk of financing risky start-ups in the hopes that some of the firms they support will become successful. Because startups face high uncertainty, VC investments do have high rates of failure. The start-ups are usually based on an innovative technology or business model and they are usually from the high technology industries, such as information technology (IT), clean technology or biotechnology.
The typical venture capital investment occurs after an initial "seed funding" round. The first round of institutional venture capital to fund growth is called the Series A round. Venture capitalists provide this financing in the interest of generating a return through an eventual "exit" event, such as the company selling shares to the public for the first time in an initial public offering (IPO) or doing a merger and acquisition (also known as a "trade sale") of the company.
In addition to Angel investing, equity crowdfunding and other seed funding options, venture capital is attractive for new companies with limited operating history that are too small to raise capital in the public markets and have not reached the point where they are able to secure a bank loan or complete a debt offering. In exchange for the high risk that venture capitalists assume by investing in smaller and early-stage companies, venture capitalists usually get significant control over company decisions, in addition to a significant portion of the companies' ownership (and consequently value). Start-ups like Uber, Airbnb, Flipkart, Xiaomi & Didi Chuxing are highly valued startups, commonly known as unicorns, where venture capitalists contribute more than financing to these early-stage firms; they also often provide strategic advice to the firm's executives on its business model and marketing strategies.
Venture capital is also a way in which the private and public sectors can construct an institution that systematically creates business networks for the new firms and industries, so that they can progress and develop. This institution helps identify promising new firms and provide them with finance, technical expertise, mentoring, marketing "know-how", and business models. Once integrated into the business network, these firms are more likely to succeed, as they become "nodes" in the search networks for designing and building products in their domain. However, venture capitalists' decisions are often biased, exhibiting for instance overconfidence and illusion of control, much like entrepreneurial decisions in general.
Private equity and venture capital
|Basic investment types|
|Terms and concepts|
|Related financial terms|