October 7, 2008, 6:30 am
Posted by Deal Journal
The investors who give private-equity firms the money to do deals still are plowing cash into the asset class, but increasingly it is being funneled away from buyout funds to more specialized investors.
Three-quarters of the way through the year, fund-raising by North American private-equity firms–a category that includes buyout, venture capital, mezzanine, distressed and several other types of firms–is ahead of last year’s pace. Through the end of September, 264 funds had raked in $222.6 billion, well ahead of the $200.4 billion raised by 298 funds at this time last year, according to data from LPSource.
That may seem a little nutty, given that the freeze-up in credit markets and the slower-growing economy stand to have a big impact on the private-equity asset class. But after the last downturn, in 2001 and 2002, many investors, known as limited partners, stopped investing in private equity, which turned out to be a bad move, as funds raised at that time eventually proved to be big winners. LPs say they have learned that lesson and will keep investing this time around.
That isn’t to say they aren’t hedging their bets. Buyout firms, which have been hardest hit by the credit crunch, raised $103.3 billion across 77 funds, down 12% from 98 funds that raised $118 billion last year. And venture capital fund-raising was flat, with 107 funds raising $19.7 billion compared with 103 funds raising $19 billion a year earlier.
Other types of firms–those perceived as most likely to benefit in the current environment–gained ground. Mezzanine funds, which invest in debt that also carries characteristics of equity, continue to have a strong year, gathering in $36.9 billion across 13 funds, compared with the $3 billion across nine funds through the third quarter of last year. Distressed firms also have well exceeded last year’s total through the third quarter. Eighteen funds have raised $37.9 billion, up 28% from $29.5 billion raised by 16 funds at this time last year.
“Instead of halting or materially decreasing investing in private equity–as was done in 2000 to 2002–this time around investors are looking to be more tactical investing capital in areas which may benefit in the current economic and business cycle,” said Brett Nelson, head of private equity at consulting firm Ennis Knupp + Associates.
–Keenan Skelly is a reporter for Private Equity Analyst, a Dow Jones publication and a contributor to Deal Journal.