A majority of private equity backers see signs that the global buy-out boom is ending, according to research from investment firm Coller Capital. North American investors are particularly pessimistic, with over three-quarters expecting an end to the boom, while just over half of European investors share their view.
A majority of private equity investors see signs that the global buy-out boom is ending, according to research from investment firm Coller Capital. North American investors are particularly pessimistic, with over three-quarters expecting an end to the boom, while just over half of European investors share their view.
Coller’s survey of 102 investors in private equity funds (known as limited partners, or LPs) also finds that North America is expected to be hardest hit by the next private equity downturn. Some 48 per cent of respondents express that view, compared with 18 per cent who expect Europe to be the biggest loser. Only seven per cent anticipate the Asia-Pacific will suffer most.
A similar pattern crops up in LPs’ outlook for returns on their investments. The survey reveals that return expectations have risen for buy-outs in the Asia-Pacific, while in Europe and North America expectations are more modest than last year.
Despite such signs of gloom, the percentage of LPs looking to increase their allocations to private equity has remained roughly where it has been for the past five surveys (going back to winter 2005/2006): that is, between 40 per cent and 50 per cent.
Jeremy Coller, CEO of Coller Capital, says that the commitment of private equity investors to the asset class is undiminished in spite of the global credit squeeze. He adds: ‘[Investors] know private equity’s ability to build and enhance businesses does not depend ultimately on cheap money.’
The survey finds that the media controversy surrounding leveraged buy-outs has had little impact on LPs, with almost four in five saying there has been no change within their organisations as a result. Questions have been raised about the tax breaks available to private equity partners involved in the buy-outs, alleged asset stripping, and the lack of disclosure on the part of buy-out companies.
There is a transatlantic split on the question of transparency, with 56 per cent of European LPs saying private equity fund managers should report to a wider group of stakeholders on their larger portfolio companies, compared with only 34 per cent of North Americans.