Big score: A trader is seen working on the New York Stock Exchange trading floor in this file picture. Private equity has become billionaire families’ favourite, with 75% believing that this asset class will continue to outperform public markets. — AP

AFTER a record fundraising year, there are worries that private equity’s golden era is over.

Banks’ souring sentiment toward buyout loans and a drought in initial public offerings are pressuring both ends of private equity’s deal machine: the buying and selling of companies.

To make things worse, pension and endowment funds – the industry’s traditional cornerstone investors – may no longer have new money for their old friends.

The culprit is their asset allocation rules.

Over the years, pension funds have been raising their stakes in private equity, to juice returns and pay retirees’ bills.

Maximum limit

But after a global sell-off in bonds and stocks, their private equity allocation may be hitting the ceiling.

Use the US$477bil (RM2.1 trillion) California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Calpers) as an illustration.

In November, Calpers raised its target allocation to 13% from 8%.

But once we account for the potential losses from its public holdings, the change doesn’t appear so earth-shattering.

A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that Calpers’ existing private equity portfolio holdings could have reached 9.5% without deploying a dollar more to alternative asset managers.

But worry not.




Private equity is attracting a new wave of investors, in the form of billionaire family offices and high-net-worth retail money.

Wall Street banks have done their part, enthusiastically marketing private equity funds to their private-wealth clients.

For instance, JPMorgan Chase & Co’s customers contributed US$1.9bil (RM8.4bil) to Chase Coleman’s Tiger Global Management’s latest US$12.7bil (RM56.2bil) venture capital fund.

The bank had earlier tapped a similar client pool to amass US$2.9bil (RM12.8bil) for a new venture fund for Philippe Laffont’s Coatue Management.

Meanwhile, the ultra-wealthy can’t get enough of private equity either, according to a recent UBS survey.

The survey polled the 221 biggest family offices that on average managed US$1.2bil (RM5.3bil) of assets each.

As of 2021, these billionaire offices were already allocating 21% of their money into private equity, either via direct investments or through funds.

Upping the ante

And yet, they overwhelmingly plan to keep raising their stakes as they extend their retreat from boring old cash and bonds.

Of course, valuation is a concern.

Private equity firms in recent years have paid handsomely for their investments.

In the first quarter, a median buyout was priced at 14.6 times enterprise value to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation – or the ratio of EV/Ebitda – versus 11.9 times four years earlier, according to PitchBook.

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