Re: PE firms … some academic findings.

Punch line: Private Equity has found itself under the media spotlight the past couple of days, thanks to Newt’s shots at Romney.

At the risk of burdening the hysteria with facts, here are the results of some academic studies reported by Business Week

PEs most common strategy is simple: buy an undervalued company, usually with borrowed money to juice returns. Whip it into shape. And after five years or so, sell it back to the public, paying off the debt and keeping the profits.

Private equity firms genuinely unlock value through “strong incentives to management, strong oversight, and operational consulting.” They force bad managers and deadwood employees to look elsewhere for work.

The PEs also benefit from special tax breaks, including the “carried interest” rule that allows them to treat their profits as lightly taxed capital gains.

More specifically …

  • According to Preqin, a London-based data provider, 25 percent of the dollars going to private equity funds from 2009 to 2011 came from public pension funds. That included teachers in Texas, California, and New Jersey. A second big chunk of investment comes from college endowment funds
  • Studies show that private equity firms are excellent at generating returns for their investors … An analysis of 598 buyout funds that existed between 1984 and 2008 found that even after fees, their weighted-average returns to outside investors were 1.27 times the returns on the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index over the same periods …
  • A Harvard Business School working paper looked at the employment patterns of 3,200 firms targeted by private equity from 1980 to 2005 … the study concludes that in comparison to the control group, the PE firms’ employment shrank “less than 1 percent” in the two years after a deal.

Ken’s Take: The emerging backlash against private equity will likely have some  unintended consequences.

Question: What if the PEs stop investing in failing companies because they get skewed if they either do the necessary restructuring (i.e. shutter plants and jettison deadwood employees) or fail to turn the failing firms around.

Answer: The failing firms fail and all jobs are lost … or the Feds step in and make taxpayers subsidize inefficient, non-economic businesses.

I’d rather have PEs take the risk with private capital …

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