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The private equity secondary market has matured and become more efficient over the last decade, with annual secondary transaction volume scaling from approximately $25 billion in 2012 to roughly $130 billion in 2021. Investors are increasingly turning to the secondary market for liquidity as they look to exit their private equity investments to better manage their overall portfolio allocations. Single asset transactions have been a more recent contributor to the growth of the secondary market, growing from 3% of total secondary transaction volume in 2018 to 25% in 2021, with a large part of this volume driven by the creation of continuation vehicles. These vehicles are quickly gaining in popularity, primarily by managers within the middle and upper end of the private equity market.
Continuation vehicles have become a hotly debated topic within the private equity community. The ability for private equity managers to recapitalize what is often their top portfolio company into a new single fund structure helps raise additional AUM and allows the manager to continue to own the company. However, it can be challenging for Limited Partners (LPs), who often lack the ability to underwrite a single company or are not given enough time to do so. Many institutional LPs are also simply unable to take the concentration risk of investing in a single asset.
As the secondary market evolves, single asset continuation vehicles are expected to become more common. LPs in private equity funds will need to evolve as well to take advantage of these opportunities and remain invested in the best assets over a longer period. This may require LPs to increase their allowable concentration limits, expand underwriting capabilities, or adjust policies in order to roll top investments into continuation funds.
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