David Bonderman, the founder of TPG, claims that large deals are back, and they are back to stay. Fueled by cheap credit and impatient investors, mega LBOs will return, and according to him, TPG will be at the forefront. TPG has not been shy of these deals in the past, leading the $44 billion takeover of TXU with Goldman Sachs and KKR in 2007. Surprisingly, investor memories are short, and the same leverage multiples and weak capital structures we saw in 2006 are emerging today in the private equity industry. As takeover multiples rise, so will leverage. And funny thing is, banks are willing to provide it more than ever.
WHAT. A. STUD.
"Larger deals are back," Mr. Bonderman said Thursday at the SuperReturn conference in Berlin. "It is as I said before absolutely possible to do a 10-to-15-billion-dollar deal now. It might not be one you want to do. It might not be one you should do. But the capital is available."
Recent private equity deals have been valued at $5 billion or less, a far cry from those of the 2006-2007 buyout boom. Indeed, in 2007 TPG teamed up with KKR and Goldman Sachs to buy the energy company TXU for $44 billion.
But money for private equity deals dried up in the financial crisis and the recovery so far has brought only smaller deals.
Among those deals is the $3 billion leveraged buyout of the preppy retailer J. Crew by TPG and Leonard Green & Partners, a deal that was approved by the company's shareholders this week.
Along with larger deals, Mr. Bonderman and other private equity executives at the SuperReturn conference were all abuzz about the potential of emerging markets.
Mr. Bonderman called emerging markets the "flavor of the month" and predicted that initial public offerings in emerging markets would represent an even larger proportion of the deals in years to come.
"Interesting enough, if you survey folks like all of us in this room, everybody sees emerging markets growing just about as fast as mature markets in the deal business, which of course has never been the case before now," Mr. Bonderman said, adding that the upside potential for deals remained high.
Growth in emerging markets is being fueled by China's booming economy, which could even be on the verge of a bubble, as well as broader trends, including the rise of the middle class in those regions, Mr. Bonderman said.
"Even Brazil is a China story," Mr. Bonderman said, adding that the emerging middle class would add trillions of dollars to emerging economies, particularly on the consumption side. This should lead to a "huge rebalancing of how the world sees itself," he said.
Mr. Bonderman was asked about TPG's recent exit from the Turkish spirits company Mey Icki , which TPG acquired in 2006 for about $800 million and sold in February for $2.1 billion.
He responded: "We thought it was a good opportunity, and it turned out to be. We would have taken it public had Diageo not shown up. As in any other place, if you can sell the whole business, you're better off than taking it public, where you have to dribble it out even though you might get a nominally higher value. We like Turkey as a place to invest and we'll be back."
On the sovereign crises, such as the one in Greece, Mr. Bonderman said: "When governments are selling, you should be buying. And when governments are defaulting, we should look at that as an opportunity. Prices are always lower when the troops are in the street. A good default, like Portugal or Greece, would be very good for the private equity business. Might not be so good for the republic, but it would be good for us."