Private equity firms generally buy companies, repair them, enhance them, and sell them on. By definition, these private equity acquisitions and investments are illiquid and are longer term in nature. Consequently, the capital is raised through private partnerships which are managed by entities known as private equity firms.
Private Equity Structure and Fees
A private equity firm is typically made up of limited partners (LPs) and one general partner (GP). The LPs are the outside investors who provide the capital. They are called limited partners in the sense that their liability extends only to the capital they contribute.
GPs are the professional investors who manage the private equity firm and deploy the pool of capital. They are responsible for all parts of the investment cycle including deal sourcing and origination, investment decision-making and transaction structuring, portfolio management (the act of overseeing the investments that they have made) and exit strategies.
The GP charges a management fee based on the LPs? committed capital. Generally, after the LPs have recovered 100% of their invested capital, the remaining proceeds are split between the LPs and the GP with 80% going to LPs and 20% to the GP.
The clawback provision gives the LPs the right to reclaim a portion of the GP's carried interest in the event that losses from later investments cause the GP to withhold too much carried interest.
Private Equity Strategies
Private equity investors have four main investment strategies.
1. The leveraged buyout (LBO) is a strategy of equity investment whereby a company is acquired from the current shareholders, typically with the use of financial leverage.
A buyout fund seeks companies that are undervalued with high predictable cash flow, low leverage and operating inefficiencies. If it can improve the business, it can sell the company or its parts, or it can pay itself a nice dividend or pay down some company debt to deleverage.
In a management buyout (MBO), the current management team is involved in the acquisition. Not only is a far larger share of executive pay tied to the performance of the business, but top managers may also be required to put a major chunk of their own money into the deal and have an ownership mentality rather than a corporate mentality. Management can focus on getting the company right without having to worry about shareholders.
2. Venture capital is financing for privately held companies, typically in the form of equity and/or long-term debt. It becomes available when financing from banks and public debt or equity markets is either unavailable or inappropriate.
Venture capital investing is done in many stages from seed through mezzanine. These stages can be characterized by where they occur in the development of the venture itself.
3. Development capital (minority equity investments) earns profits from funding business growth or restructuring.
4. Distressed investing. A distressed opportunity typically arises when a company, unable to meet all its debts, files for Chapter 11 (reorganization) or Chapter 7 (liquidation) bankruptcy. Investors who understand the true risks and values involved can scoop up these securities or claims at discounted prices, seeing the glow beneath the tarnish.
Every private equity investment starts with the end in mind: no fund will support a private equity company without a clear exit plan. Common exit strategies include trade sale, IPO, recapitalization, secondary sales, and write off or liquidation.
Risk and return:
Valuation approaches: market or comparable, discounted cash flow (DCF), and asset based.
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