Private Equity Firms Brace for Market Downturn While Navigating Fierce Competition

BDO Survey Finds 89% of Fund Managers Expect Prolonged Market
Downturn Within Two Years

CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–lt;a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/BDO?src=hash” target=”_blank”gt;#BDOlt;/agt;–Navigating trade tensions and tax reform, heightened competition for new
deals and preparations for an impending market correction are the top
issues facing private equity fund managers, according to BDO’s
Tenth Annual Private Equity PErspective Survey
. In fact, 89 percent
of private equity fund managers expect a prolonged downturn sometime in
the next two years. Over one-fifth (22 percent) anticipate a market
correction in the next 6-12 months. Meanwhile, more than two-thirds (67
percent) anticipate a market correction in the next 1-2 years.

Whether the next recession comes tomorrow or in two years, private
equity firms are proactively taking steps to shore up their portfolios
for potential economic headwinds. To prepare for a downturn, 70 percent
of survey respondents are being more selective when evaluating highly
valued deals, although strong deal activity indicates that investors are
still eager to deploy capital. Concurrently, 14 percent are holding
their current investments for longer periods, and just 8 percent are
exiting current investments.

“Data suggests that there’s a shift underway in private equity, with
valuations at historic highs and competition for a limited number of
quality deals driving up purchase prices,” said Scott
Hendon, National Private Equity Industry Group Leader at BDO
. “A
confluence of economic factors leads us to believe a market correction
may be coming and to expect valuations to be tested as buyers get less
aggressive on cyclical assets.”

In a competitive environment, dependable sources of deal flow are more
vital than ever before. Private company sales/capital raises are the
most cited drivers of deal flow in the next 12 months, noted by almost
two-thirds of respondents (61 percent)—a seven percentage point decrease
from last year but up substantially from the year prior. PE exits are
the second-most-cited at 21 percent, relatively consistent with
projections from the past two years.

Competition for new deals in middle market private equity is getting
significantly tougher. Over the next 12 months, survey respondents said
the most competition for middle market deals will come from other
private equity firms (83 percent), followed by strategics (11 percent),
surprisingly lower than expected. While strategic buyers continue to bid
up prices, middle market PE peers are multiplying and, at the same time,
bulge-bracket PE firms are moving downward.

Over the next 12 months, the overwhelming majority (89 percent) of firms
will direct the most capital toward new deals, putting on the backburner
add-on acquisitions and de-leveraging portfolio company balance sheets.
Funding portfolio working capital needs is also not a top priority
compared to the hunt for new deals.

Additional findings from the Tenth
Annual Private Equity PErspective Survey
include:

  • Views on the Trump Administration’s Policies: Forty-five
    percent of survey respondents say the policies of the Trump
    administration are likely to increase investor interest in private
    capital. Twenty-two percent expect exit multiples and the environment
    to decline due to the Trump administration’s policies, compared to 18
    percent anticipating the opposite.
  • Trade Tensions Are the Biggest Political Concern: Reflecting
    the major impact of tariffs and the proposed agreement to replace
    NAFTA, trade is overwhelmingly (50 percent) the biggest concern among
    global political issues for private equity fund managers. Trailing far
    behind is the U.S. presidential administration (18 percent) and Brexit
    uncertainty (12 percent).
  • Top Regulatory Concerns: This year, tax reform is private
    equity firms’ chief regulatory concern, cited by 21 percent of survey
    respondents. The Affordable Care Act also ranks high on the list of
    regulatory concerns, selected by 20 percent of the PE fund managers
    surveyed. The pressure to retain talent with competitive healthcare
    programs and the political uncertainty around mandatory benefits
    coverage by employers are also dominating the regulatory landscape for
    PE executives.
  • Industry Outlook: Healthcare & biotech (22 percent) and tech
    (24 percent) are the middle-market sectors most likely to experience
    increasing deal activity during the next 12 months, according to
    survey respondents. Retail & distribution (20 percent) and real estate
    (19 percent) are the middle-market sectors most likely to experience
    decreasingly deal activity during the next 12 months.
  • Uses of Proceeds from Debt: Other than to fund acquisitions,
    nearly a third of survey respondents said they’re using proceeds from
    debt towards dividend recaps (30 percent). However, fewer are opting
    to improve the balance sheet by refinancing debt (14 percent) or
    investing in operational improvements (17 percent). Fifteen percent
    are not planning to increase any of their portfolio’s leverage. Just
    under one-quarter of survey respondents (23 percent) say they’re using
    proceeds from debt to fund add-on acquisitions.
  • Understanding Evolving GP/LP Dynamics: To improve their
    relationships with LPs, most respondents report taking steps to
    improve reporting transparency and fee disclosures (44 percent) or
    offering alternative investment structures such as co-investments or
    separate managed accounts (40 percent). Fund managers believe the
    management team (20 percent) and track record (29 percent) are the
    most important factors for LPs when evaluating GPs in today’s
    environment. Operating experience (13 percent) and investment focus
    (11 percent) are also believed to be important, but slightly less so.
  • International Investment Remains Strong: Outside of North
    America, continental Europe is considered the most attractive region
    for investment (45 percent) in the next 12 months, with Asia coming in
    second (27 percent). South and Central America follows at 14 percent,
    with Eastern Europe (9 percent) and the Middle East and Africa (5
    percent) trailing behind as key regions for investment in the next
    year.

The BDO Tenth Annual Private Equity PErspective Survey is
an international survey of more than 75 senior executives at private
equity firms in the U.S. and internationally. The survey is administered
by PitchBook, an independent and impartial research firm dedicated to
providing premium data, news and analysis to the private equity industry.

About BDO’s Private Equity Practice

Strategically-focused and remarkably responsive, the experienced,
multi-disciplinary partners and directors of BDO’s Private Equity
practice provide value-added assurance, tax and consulting services for
all aspects of a fund’s cycle, wherever private equity firms are
investing.

About BDO USA

BDO is the brand name for BDO USA, LLP, a U.S. professional services
firm providing assurance, tax, advisory and consulting services to a
wide range of publicly traded and privately held companies. For more
than 100 years, BDO has provided quality service through the active
involvement of experienced and committed professionals. The firm serves
clients through more than 60 offices and over 550 independent alliance
firm locations nationwide. As an independent Member Firm of BDO
International Limited, BDO serves multi-national clients through a
global network of 1,400 offices across 158 countries.

BDO USA, LLP, a Delaware limited liability partnership, is the U.S.
member of BDO International Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee,
and forms part of the international BDO network of independent member
firms. BDO is the brand name for the BDO network and for each of the BDO
Member Firms. For more information please visit: www.bdo.com.

Contacts

Marisha Chinsky
Bliss Integrated Communication
(646) 386-2922
[email protected]

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