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6 Signs of Recovery

6) Emerging Markets Appeal

The appetite for investing in emerging markets continues to grow. According to the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association, private equity funds investing in emerging markets received 20 percent of global private equity commitments in 2012, the sector's largest share to date and up from 12 percent in 2011 and 5 percent in 2003.

However, it seems the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries may no longer be the only darlings of the emerging markets. It's true that firms such as Bain Capital and PAG (formerly known as Pacific Alliance Group) have raised new funds to invest in the BRIC countries. For example, Bain raised $2.3 billion for Bain Capital Fund II in July 2012, while Baring Vostok raised $1.2 billion for Baring Vostok Private Equity Fund V. And PAG's fund, PAG Asia Fund I, closed in September 2012 with $2.4 billion.

While the BRIC countries have seen activity, investment opportunities have been choppy. Overall, investment in Russia has slowed. India was bustling with investment activity during the 2005 to 2007 time frame, but the inability to gain exits has decreased LPs' appetite in the country.China had been the darling of the BRIC countries until its initial public offering market started to weaken about 18 months ago. Fundraising in the country was down 45 percent in 2012 from 2011, according to Probitas Partners' Kelly DePonte. In Brazil, the election of a new president has caused investors to pause.

For the first time, it's not the BRIC countries that are driving activity in the emerging markets arena. There is a 16 percent increase in non-BRIC private equity funds raised, with countries such as Chile, Malaysia, Morocco and United Arab Emirates garnering more attention. According to the BDO study, most private equity firms see South America and Central America as the geographies that present the greatest opportunity for new investments outside North America.

Other regions are also sparking interest: Turkven Private Equity raised a $700 million buyout fund for investment in Turkey, and LB Investment raised a $150 million fund for investment in South Korea.

All told, 161 emerging market funds raised $40.3 billion in 2012, up from the 148 funds that raised $38.5 billion in 2011.

"Things have been bumpy for the BRIC countries, but there's been a lot of interesting opportunities in Turkey, Indonesia, Mexico and South Korea," says DePonte. "They are the next generation, as the market for the core BRIC countries matures. That said, there are still opportunities, and there will still be opportunities, in the BRIC countries, but they are slowing."