Private equity fund-raising on the rebound


Love ’em or hate ’em, private equity funds play a big role in determining how robust M&A activity is at all levels. Just like broadcasters and other businesses, the PE funds are seeing a recovery from the recession.

Driven by a small number of funds that held large closes, US and European private equity fund-raising has rebounded in 2011. According to figures from Dow Jones LP Source, US private equity funds secured $31.6 billion for 89 funds during the first quarter, more than double the $13.5 billion raised for 81 funds during the same period last year. All sectors except Mezzanine raised more capital than the same period last year.

European firms collected $8.2 billion during the quarter, up 39% from the $5.9 billion raised a year earlier, although the number of closings declined to 22 from 32, according to the data.

“In 2010, many private equity firms focused on trying to return capital and those efforts are starting to bring their investors back to the party,” said Laura Kreutzer, managing editor of Dow Jones Private Equity Analyst. “But limited partners are still like bouncers at an exclusive night club. They’re only letting the best looking groups behind the velvet rope. Everyone else still has to struggle for their attention.”

Dow Jones LP Source classifies multiple fund closings (first, interim, final) separately, based on the year of the closing, to provide an accurate view of the annual fund-raising environment.

As more middle-market funds entered the market this year, US Buyout funds raised $19.2 billion across 41 funds during the first quarter of 2011, up from $6.6 billion raised by 29 funds a year earlier. This rebound was driven by large commitments to funds from firms including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co, GTCR Golder Rauner LLC and Oaktree Capital Management LP.

Within the US Buyout industry, upper mid-market funds – or those between $1 billion and $5 billion each – shined as buyout and acquisition funds captured limited partners’ (LP) attention. Buyout and Acquisition funds collected $8.7 billion across 17 funds during the first quarter of 2011, more than three times the amount raised during the same period in 2010.
In Europe, Buyout funds, which account for the bulk of that region’s private equity industry, secured $7.3 billion for 15 funds during the first quarter, up from $2.9 billion raised for 12 funds a year earlier. As in the U.S., a small number of firms, including BC Partners Ltd. and Astorg Partners, captured the bulk of the money.

US funds focused on mezzanine strategies saw a decline thus far in 2011, as they attracted $1.1 billion for five funds, a 21% decrease from the six funds that raised $1.4 billion during the same period in 2010. Mezzanine debt is the only investment category in the US that experienced a decline from last year’s fund-raising levels.

“As the debt markets have recovered, they’ve offered many private equity firms cheaper sources of leverage for their deals than mezzanine firms typically provide,” said Kreutzer. “At the same time, mezzanine firms raised more than $6 billion in capital in 2010, roughly double 2009 levels, so we may just be seeing a fund-raising lull as firms that raised money last year focus on finding deals.”

There were no Mezzanine funds raised in Europe during the first quarter of 2011.

Venture Capital fund-raising rose to $7.7 billion across 25 funds during the first quarter of 2011, a 97% increase from the $3.9 billion collected by 32 funds during the same period in 2010. A small number of large closings from Sequoia Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners and other firms helped lift U.S. venture fund-raising for the quarter.
European venture firms were not as fortunate, however, raising $653 million for five funds during the quarter, down from $1.3 billion for 13 funds raised during the same period last year.

RBR-TVBR observation: PE funds are neither good nor bad by nature, despite the pronouncements of FCC Commissioner Michael Copps. Just like any other company that gets into owning radio and TV stations, some are good at it and some are awful. Most fall somewhere in between. The fact is that an accomplished manager who wants to become an owner seldom has the personal financial wherewithal to buy a decent, competitive station acting alone, let alone buy a group. PE funds are one of the ways new entrepreneurs get a company up and running.