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Private equity exits are set to break record numbers in 2021. In 2020, there were 947 exits worth $367 billion, and in 2019 there were 1,111 for a total $323 billion. Already this year, in the first half of 2021, there have been 676 exits for $356 billion. At this pace, the year is on track to surpass both the previous highs of 1,328 exits in 2015 and $421 billion in exit value in 2018.
Along with the number of exits increasing overall, the percentage of exits via IPO has increased significantly this year. In 2019, the fear of a recession kept private companies from wanting to go public. Once a private company hits the market, PE sponsors keep their shares, now subject to public market dynamics, for an average of three years. Risk of a looming recession or lack of confidence in the public market can deter private company owners from pursuing this path. Alternatively, the increased use of public market exits year-to-date may represent private owners’ more bullish outlook on the market. We will continue to look to leading indicators like private market sentiment to help inform our own market expectations and client recommendations.
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