英国《金融时报》 Lex专栏

Mixed signals make private equity a tough industry to predict. In some ways, 2010 has been less easy to navigate than the depths of the credit crunch. Back then the market moved in just one direction – down.


In the second quarter of 2010, private equity managers raised just $41bn, the lowest amount since 2003 and four-fifths lower than the peak three years ago, according to research group Preqin. Investors shied away from managers, who are anyway flush with unspent cash.


This alarm bell, though, does not seem to have rattled private equity managers. They racked up $43bn worth of deals globally in the second quarter, the highest level since the credit crunch began. Top of the list was the $3.9bn consortium buy-out of Extended Stay, a financially distressed hotel chain. The

不过,这一警钟似乎并未惊扰到私人股本公司。今年第二季度,它们在全球获得了价值430亿美元的交易,为信贷危机爆发以来的最高水平。最大一笔交易是一个财团以39亿美元收购了财务陷入困境的连锁酒店Extended Stay。中端市场也同样活跃:过去10天里,巴克莱私人股本投资公司(Barclays Private Equity)完成了三项投资,而百仕通(Blackstone)则刚刚达成了针对中国房地产市场的首项重大投资。但这种投资活动可能并不代表投资者信心已经有所恢复。相反,时间紧迫可能是许多私人股本公司被迫采取行动的原因:在许多基金,基金经理必须在5年后将未使用的资金还给投资者。2005年,私人股本公司共融得约3500亿美元,由于全球衰退让投资活动停滞了两年时间,现在它们的时间已所剩无几。

mid-market is similarly active: Barclays Private Equity completed three investments in the past 10 days and Blackstone has just agreed a deal to make its first significant investment in the Chinese property market. Yet activity may not be a sign of renewed confidence. Instead, the sound of a ticking clock may be forcing action: in many funds, managers must return unspent capital to investors after five years. About $350bn was raised in 2005 and with a two-year hibernation imposed by the global downturn, time is running short.


If so, a desire not to leave fee income on the table should keep deals flowing. A further $1,828bn was raised by private equity groups between 2006 and 2008. suggesting three more busy years ahead. But unless fundraising becomes far easier, private equity managers will be running short on cash by 2013.


By then, refinancing needs will also have become pressing for many companies bought during the boom. An industry in apparent rude health may still face a rude awakening.