Private Equity

What is private equity and how does it work?

In finance, a private equity is a way of raising investment capital from high net worth individuals and institutions for the purpose of investing and acquiring equity ownership in companies.

A private equity investment will generally be made by private equity firms, a venture capital firm or an angel investor. Each of these categories of investors will provide working capital to nurture the expansion of a company, the development of a new product or the restructuration of the company’s operations, management or ownership.

Private equity explained

For example, in a “public-to-private” deal an external investor might take a listed company private by buying its shares using large amounts of debt finance, for a target fixed period of, perhaps, three years. That investor might ask in return for a seat on the board and the right to convert debt into equity later when the company is relisted. Meanwhile, the business is stripped of costs and non-core businesses in an attempt to boost profits.

If this works, the private equity backers and the company’s management stand to make huge profits. The downside is that private equity in this form could be adding little real value to the firm and is little more than asset stripping, as some critics have pointed out.

Private equity is also often grouped into a wider category called private capital, generally used to describe capital supporting any long-term, illiquid investment strategy.

Private equity firms have become attractive investment vehicles for wealthy individuals and institutions. As the industry attracts the best and brightest in corporate America, the professionals at these firms are usually successful in deploying investment capital and in increasing the values of their portfolio companies. However, there is also fierce competition in the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) marketplace for good companies to buy. As such, it is imperative that these firms develop strong relationships with transaction and services professionals to secure strong deal flow.

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Category: Financial Glossary

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