The Cost of Private Equity
39 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2013
Date Written: November 15, 2013
Private equity (PE) has developed into a well-established asset class with strong growth in capital commitments over the last decades. Consequently, fund returns have decreased over time and investors have become more cost conscious. Based on a unique data set of 358 PE buyout funds with vintage years between 1983 and 2007, we analyze whether the maturing PE asset class has become less costly over time. We define costs as the difference between gross and net returns (return spread) and provide a spread benchmark useful for investors to evaluate a fund’s costliness. Next, we show that, in line with our expectations, return spreads have decreased over time. However, when we control for falling gross returns causing lower performance-based fees, surprisingly, the cost of PE investing has increased. We relate the higher costs to increased levels of dry powder due to swelling capital flows into the industry. We conclude that the PE industry is a victim of its own success, suggesting that investors in the asset class should consider a more anti-cyclical investment approach.
Keywords: Private equity, fund return, dry powder, investment behavior
JEL Classification: G11, G23, G24
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation