This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.
The global private equity (PE) industry posted another solid year in 2017, as buyout value and exits both showed healthy gains. Firms closed out the strongest five-year stretch for fund-raising in the industry’s history as limited partners continued to respond to private equity’s outperformance vs. other asset classes by flooding the market with new capital.
Growing investor enthusiasm produced the largest buyout funds ever raised in the US, Europe and Asia, and served as a ringing endorsement of the industry’s prospects in the years ahead. But it also intensified the pressure on general partners (GPs) to keep the good times rolling.
That won’t be easy. As discussed in Bain & Company’s recently released Global Private Equity Report 2018, PE funds are working harder than ever to put all their new capital to work. Various roadblocks are limiting the number, if not the value, of deals closed. In 2017, heavy competition for assets and record-high deal multiples made it increasingly difficult to find new targets and close new transactions at attractive prices. The building trend has put downward pressure on deal numbers for the past several years.
These factors mean that the main challenge for GPs in 2018 and beyond will be to find new ways to generate growth and underwrite value as they seek to justify persistently high prices for target companies. The days of buying an asset, cutting some costs and riding a wave of market beta to a strong exit multiple are largely over. To maintain returns on the capital flooding into the industry, GPs will have to develop new capabilities and approach the market with new strategies for producing better performance. We’ll examine these challenges in an upcoming series of posts and highlight a number of ways the top-performing funds are responding. For the full set of data and insights, download the 2018 report.
Hugh MacArthur, Graham Elton, Daniel Haas and Suvir Varma are leaders of Bain & Company’s Private Equity practice.