Private Equity Firm

An investment management entity that offers financial backing. 

Author: Rohan Arora
Rohan Arora
Rohan Arora
Investment Banking | Private Equity

Mr. Arora is an experienced private equity investment professional, with experience working across multiple markets. Rohan has a focus in particular on consumer and business services transactions and operational growth. Rohan has also worked at Evercore, where he also spent time in private equity advisory.

Rohan holds a BA (Hons., Scholar) in Economics and Management from Oxford University.

Reviewed By: Andy Yan
Andy Yan
Andy Yan
Investment Banking | Corporate Development

Before deciding to pursue his MBA, Andy previously spent two years at Credit Suisse in Investment Banking, primarily working on M&A and IPO transactions. Prior to joining Credit Suisse, Andy was a Business Analyst Intern for Capital One and worked as an associate for Cambridge Realty Capital Companies.

Andy graduated from University of Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and is currently an MBA candidate at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business with a concentration in Analytical Finance.

Last Updated:June 16, 2023

A private equity firm is an investment management entity that offers financial backing and makes private equity investments in a startup or operating company using various investment strategies, including leverage, venture capital, and growth capital.

Each private equity firm often referred to as a financial sponsor, will raise funds to be invested following one or more specific investment strategies.

Usually, a private equity firm will raise pools of capital, or private equity funds, to supply the equity contributions for these transactions.

Private equity firms will be paid a management fee and a share of the profits generated (carried interest) from every private equity fund.

How does a Private Equity company work?

Private equity firms and their investors will acquire a controlling or considerable minority share in the company and aim to maximize the value of that investment. Private equity firms usually earn a return on their investments with one of the following channels:

  • IPO (Initial Public Offering) — a company's shares are offered to the public, serving the society as a financial sponsor with a partial immediate realization and a public market into which it can eventually sell additional shares.

  • Recapitalization — Either through cash flow generated by the business or by issuing loans or other instruments to facilitate the distribution, cash is given to the shareholders and its private equity funds.

  • Merger and Acquisition (M&A) — the procedure by which two businesses combine, either by merging (company merger process) or by one acquiring the other to become a part of an enormous enterprise (acquisition process).

1. IPO Insights

The process of a private company selling shares of itself to the public for the first time means that it is transitioning from the status of private ownership to public ownership.

It is why IPOs are often referred to as a company going public. Usually, companies that have existed for decades can decide to go public through an IPO.

Typically, companies initiate public offerings to increase capital to cover and pay off debts, finance internal growth and initiatives, and raise the company's corporate image to the public.

Diversification is also one of the benefits of an IPO for the investment portfolio of internal management and liquidity when they sell all or a particular portion of their stocks during the public offering.

2. Recapitalization Insights

Recapitalizing is the readjustment of the company's capital structure to make optimal financial leverage and stability of the capital structure.

The restructuring of the capital structure is typically done by adjustment to the company's debt-to-equity ratio. There are many various reasons why companies initiate recapitalization, but common reasons are:

  • Providing liquidity for shareholders of the company
  • Expansion of the business operations into new geographic regions
  • Eliminating hostile takeovers
  • Transitions between debt and equity financing
  • Restructuring a bankruptcy

3. Mergers and Acquisition Insights

A merger is the process of the unification of two companies into one entity. While on the other hand, an acquisition is a process in which one company purchases another. Moreover, a portion of this company combines with itself.

M&A deals are commonly utilized in telecommunications, information technology, outsourcing, and traditional businesses to gain an advantage, eliminate competition, or enter a new market.

In terms of entering a new market, mergers and acquisitions can bring benefits such as new market share, reduction in competition, decrease in tax liability, or directing losses and gains of two entities.

Types of Private Equity

PE funds engage in VC (venture capital), and LBOs (leveraged buyout) are two of the most popular types of financing. While venture capital is suitable for early-stage companies, LBOs are mainly utilized for companies in relatively mature stages.

VCs are primarily startups; they are fully financed with equity since debt providers are unwilling to provide financing. In contrast, LBOs are financed with massive leverage.

1. Venture Capital (VC)

Venture Capital provides investment to new companies which will not be making a profit for a certain amount of time; despite this, these invested companies will have strong growth potential in the future.

Businesses usually look for venture capital investment for several reasons, such as growing and initiating sales and production operations, increasing manufacturing, and increasing human capital.

Small businesses, like startups with innovative and ambitious value propositions, need VC firms to raise money since they do not have access to significant debt.

The world's renowned information technology leaders, such as Facebook, Google, and Skype, all received VC investment in different stages of the business. From an investor's perspective, venture capital funds may produce exceptional returns, despite the risks associated with investing in uncertain developing enterprises.

2. Leveraged Buyouts (LBO)

LBOs make investments in relatively established companies, typically acquiring a controlling stake. To increase the rate of return, LBO funds heavily leverage their assets. Buyout funds often have a bigger size than VC investments.

Leveraged buyouts typically use a high debt-to-equity ratio to finance the company. When the acquiring company gets loans, the assets and expected cash flow of the target company are used as collateral.

Companies often use leveraged buyouts for the privatization of public companies or to purchase large companies to fragment them into smaller firms.

According to empirical evidence, LBOs result in remarkable improvements in the company's performance measured using various indicators like cash flow to return on investment valuation metric.

And this can be described by looking into several factors: tax benefits, internal control, improved corporate culture, and a strong management team.

Variations of LBO:

  • Management Buyout (MBO) - if the company's existing management team purchases the company using equity combined with debt.
  • Management Buy-Ins (MBI) - in this case, the external management team purchases the company's controlling ownership and replaces the existing management team in the company.

Each form of trade has a unique dynamic. The BMO team often has a wealth of knowledge regarding the target company. Typically, the MBI team will have experience in the industry but little to no understanding of the particular business.

3. Growth Equity

Growth equity is the practice of purchasing minority stakes in relatively mature businesses with solid growth rates to finance those businesses' future expansion ambitions.

Growth equity firms, also known as growth or expansion capital, look to invest in a business with proven business models and repetitive client acquisition methods.

Growth equity provides return throughout growth at the deal level. Unsimilar to private equity, growth equity achieves return with leverage. At the fund level, growth equity generates money by investing in the funds provided by limited partners.

The risk and return characteristics of growth equity are inseparably linked. Investment in growth equity realizes a return similar to venture capital while reducing the risk.

As the name implies, the 'growth' factor is typically the most important, which means that EBITDA or the rate of revenue is considered the most significant for any expected deal.

For growth equity, private equity firms usually look for industry sectors that are anticipated to perform more dramatically than the broad-ranging economy.

It applies to industries like financial services, technology, and medicine. In addition, companies showing faster growth rates than their industry rivals are considered attractive target investments.

How does a private equity firm make money?

Private equity funds usually generate revenue through management fees and payments based on fund performance. One of the most popular fee structures is the 2-and-20 rule.

The 2-and-20 rule is the compensation structure that provides both management and performance fees. 2% represents the management fee based on the total assets under the management of a private equity fund. 20% is the performance fee based on the profit fund generated after a specific minimum threshold.

1. What are management fees?

Management fees are calculated as a percentage of the total size of the PE fund. Typically, management fees consist of one or two percent based on the magnitude of the fund.

As the size of the private equity fund gets larger, the management fee exhibits a lower percentage, and the smaller the size of the fund, the higher the percentage fee.

It can be explained by the phenomenon called economies of scale. PE funds get more efficient as the magnitude of an asset increases. Also, the diseconomies of scale, as the total asset under management gets smaller.

It is because private equity firms must utilize a minimum structure of finance professionals and offices for management operations, even for managing small funds.

2. What are performance fees?

Fees based on the fund's performance are calculated as a percentage of the total profit from the PE fund, traditionally 20 percent.

Incentive fees are typically incentives provided for higher results in returns beyond a certain level threshold of the gain on the fund.  

3. Dividend Recapitalization

A dividend recap is when the PE firm launches new debt issuance to pay a special dividend to the LPs (limited partners).

Limited partners initially invest cash to fund the acquisition of the portfolio company. Dividend recapitalization is an alternative way for PE firms to realize money instead of selling the portfolio company or initiating an IPO.

A dividend recap is considered an advantage, an alternative for sale, and an IPO company under the PE firm. An initial public offering is usually uncertain and risky, so PE funds take dividend recap as an ideal alternative route.

Moreover, PE funds use financing from high-yield, historically inexpensive bonds. Thus coupon payments on bonds are proportionally low.

Latest Trends in the Private Equity Industry

Similar to other industries, the PE industry has been influenced by Covid-19. In particular, IT has become more prevalent. Global environmental constraint due to climate change has also increased to an unprecedented level.

Such trends have raised the demand for the alignment of information technology with the financial industry and sustainability investing for private equity firms.

1. Utilization of Machine Learning in PE firms

It is no surprise that data analysis technology will become ever more advanced in the next decade. In this matter, machine learning is the central part of AI (Artificial Intelligence) that deals with algorithms.

The algorithms can learn to resolve problematic complications without any additional programming operations by human intelligence. 

PE firms utilize machine learning to evaluate buyout processes during the DD (Due diligence) process, which contributes to identifying new and ready firms for substantial investment.

The complicated investment problem will be solved with the help of machine learning and will become one of the most significant parts of the private equity industry in no time.

2. Work-from-home and virtualization of investment operations

Every financial services firm in the industry has adjusted its operations for remote work as COVID-19 hindered face-to-face services for investors. Similarly, the day-to-day operations of PE firms have also been implemented virtually from a distance.

Despite the issues caused by the global pandemic, the online distant working process advantages private equity firms by removing barriers to remote geographical areas.

3. ESG investing

The significance of sustainable investing will be one of the major topics for the financial industry. It is expected to be widespread due to climate change and pandemic outbreaks.

Environmental, social, and governance investing will become a significant consideration for PE firms in examining companies by their characteristics and impacts on the environment and society for portfolio purposes.

ESG investing promotes stable corporate conduct and social structure. By encouraging investment in this way, investors are contributing to establishing a greener environment and promising prospects, which leads to a positive outlook for investors.

Researched and authored by Bakhtiyorjon (Ben) Yakubov | LinkedIn

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