PE Activity Dips Despite Ample Dry Powder
An air pocket in-deal making caused by the U.S. government shutdown as well as disruption in capital markets in the final weeks of 2018 formed a backdrop for a lower deal count for private equity firms in the first quarter.
As of March 29, The Deal logged 147 leveraged buyouts, management buyouts, private acquisitions privatizations, and secondary buyouts in its database. That compares with 59 deals with the same characteristics in the corresponding year-ago period under the same characteristics from The Deal’s database.
The roughly $2 trillion in dry powder by private equity firms worldwide remained a key component of the deal landscape in the first quarter.
“The general feeling is that there’s never been so much money around,” said Antoine Drean, founder and chairman of Triago, the New York and Paris-based adviser that helps firms raise capital. “In the middle market, you’ll get 100 bidders for a dozen deals. European GPs are also interested in the U.S. because there are more potential targets.”
Late last year, Drean predicted that PE firms would acquire other advisers in 2019 and speculated that T. Rowe Price Group Inc. (TROW) could possibly buy Hamilton Lane Inc. (HLNE). Instead, one of the quarter’s most high profile announced deals was that Oaktree Capital Group would sell a majority stake to Brookfield Asset Management Inc. (BAM) for $4.34 billion.
Such tie-ups continue to be likely as the asset class bulks up to compete for deals, he said.
Despite the relatively strong performance in the first quarter, private equity firms have been more cautious in the face of mixed economic indicators in the U.S. and abroad.
David Brackett, co-CEO of middle-market lender Antares said the first quarter saw a soft start for the year due to the government shutdown and rocky financial markets in the fourth quarter.
While loan pricing has since recovered and activity has picked up, the disruption has caused a dip in M&A activity.
Some portfolio companies that would have been ripe for sale have since been held back from the M&A marketplace for more seasoning, he said.
With economic indicators pointing to a potential slowdown in the economy, Antares is being more cautious on loans in the senior side of the market where it operates.
“Are we being more selective? Yes,” Brackett said. “We don’t have to deploy our capital. We’re not paid based on how much in assets we put to work.”
Antares gets about 70% of its loan issuance from a pool of about 400 existing clients.
The firm expects to issue “slightly less” in loans than the $24 billion it put to work last year.
Antares has readied a multi-disciplined team to allow them to focus on opportunities to buy underperforming loans if an economic downturn takes place.
“We have a game plan so we can hit the ground running,” Brackett said.
Nevertheless, Antares remains bullish on its portfolio with healthcare, SaaS companies and business service providers playing a starring role. The firm’s clients base in the middle market remains healthy.
“The portfolio is doing really well,” Brackett said. “The capital that’s available is also very significant.”
Subscribers have access to more of the deal data that fuel these rankings here.
Not a subscriber? Request a personalized demo here.