2017 was a prosperous year for the private equity industry—no wonder it seemed to go by so quickly! According to Pitchbook’s third quarter 2017 US PE Breakdown report, fundraising reached $178 billion by the end of the third quarter. That included the record-breaking $24.7 billion raised by Apollo Global management for its new buyout fund, which made it the largest buyout fund ever raised.
On the dealmaking side, private equity firms invested $402 billion across 2,820 transactions through the third quarter—not a record, but still healthy. So where does that leave us for 2018?
Industry professionals far and wide are saying the same thing: This bull market can’t last forever. On the other hand, they aren’t pointing to any particular clouds on the horizon either. Sure, as I write this, everyone is wondering if Congress will pass a new tax law and the impact it might have on M&A, and there are ongoing concerns over deal pricing and the intensity of the competition for high quality opportunities. But private equity firms have more capital than ever and macro-economic conditions remain strong, pointing to another robust year for the industry.
“In the near term, we expect the hot market to continue,” says Gretchen Perkins, a partner with Huron Capital. “Debt continues to be readily available to support acquisitions and there are plenty of deals in market and soon-to-be taken to market.” In other words, there’s nothing pointing to an imminent slow down.
Of course, the industry should make the most of these conditions while they last. That said, however, it should also remain thoughtful about its use of leverage and the nature of the deals that it undertakes.
Deal volume, while generally healthy, is down from 2016, and it’s no secret that high valuations and questions about deal quality persist. We don’t want 2019 or 2020 to look like 2009 or 2010, do we? So, here’s hoping that the industry has learned from its past mistakes. Deal makers need to stay disciplined; those who are tempted by all the dry powder that’s available aren’t likely to be part of the conversion the next time around.
But don’t let me dampen your spirits. Happy New Year one and all!