Private equity is getting beaten up on the campaign trail, but when it comes to delivering returns, the asset class continues to be a solid contender. Both private equity and venture capital generated double-digit returns for 2011,“placing their performances well ahead of their public equity counterparts, in what was a stormy year for the markets and the broader economy,” according to research house Cambridge Associates LLC.

“For 2011, the performance of U.S. private equity came in at around 10.9 percent net,” says Cambridge managing director Andrea Auerbach. “The level of distributions that private equity managers gave back to limited partners (LPs) was almost $94 billion—the largest number we’ve ever seen in the 25 years we’ve been tracking this information.” The record distributions “likely reflect the long-awaited completion of realization events delayed largely due to the recession and buoyed by active M&A and IPO environments in 2011,” surmises Auerbach.

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