Brett Graffy, CAIA
For U.S. private equity investors, it has been a spectacular decade. Through September 2019, EV/ EBITDA¹ multiples, a standard for measuring private equity investment value, stood at 12.8x, just below the 2014 high of 12.9x. This figure marks an 82% increase from 2009, during which the U.S. economy was emerging from the Global Financial Crisis. In addition to revenue growth and EBITDA margin expansion, increasing multiples is a driver of private equity value creation and the most publicized metric on the state of the market.
A decade of increasing multiples has benefited private equity investors and managers. As investors saw the value of their private equity allocations grow, they rewarded managers with increasing amounts of capital. In 2019, global private equity raised $595 billion,² the second-largest sum ever. A decades’ worth of prolific fundraising, like 2017’s record total of $628 billion, has created substantial amounts of dry powder, or uninvested capital. Today, private equity managers are sitting on $1.43 trillion of dry powder, waiting for investment opportunities to emerge.
These record-setting figures beg investors to ask very important questions regarding the next decade of private equity. Regardless of the past decade, we continue to see a tremendous amount of value in the private equity asset class as a return enhancer and diversifier for portfolios. Undoubtedly, investor scrutiny will increase as the asset class becomes more competitive, and manager differentiation will be paramount.
¹ Enterprise value / earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization
² Cummings, C. “Fundraising Stumbled in 2019 From Decade’s Record Pace,” 9 Jan. 2020. The Wall Street Journal.
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