Last updated: 12:46 / Monday, 15 December 2014
Coller Capital’s Barometer

Private Equity Leads Way to Higher Alternative Assets Exposure

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Private Equity Leads Way to Higher Alternative Assets Exposure
  • Almost all LPs now expect net annual returns greater than 11% from PE over the next 3-5 years
  • Two fifths of private equity investors will raise their target allocation to the asset class in the next year
  • One third of investors will increase their allocation to real estate, the same proportion will reduce their allocation to hedge funds
  • Three in five PE investors believe GPs would benefit from having more gender-diverse teams

Increased investor exposure to alternative assets is being led by private equity, with two in five Limited Partners (LPs) planning an increased target allocation to the asset class in the next twelve months, according to Coller Capital’s latest Global Private Equity Barometer. However, although one third of investors say they will also increase their allocation to real estate, the same proportion will reduce their allocation to hedge funds. (Separately, almost two thirds of LPs say they expect large private equity investors to review their hedge fund exposure in the wake of CalPERS’ decision to stop investing in the asset class.)

Still-strengthening return expectations explain private equity’s popularity with investors. Almost all (93% of) LPs are now forecasting annual net returns greater than 11% from their private equity portfolios over a 3-5 year horizon (up from 81% of LPs two years ago). A quarter of LPs are forecasting net returns of over 16%.

“In today’s low-yield world it’s hugely impressive to see such a high proportion of private equity investors expecting annual net returns of more than 11%,” said Jeremy Coller, CIO of Coller Capital, “and Limited Partners are telling us there is more to play for. They believe private equity returns could get even stronger with further enhancements to General Partners’ operational skills and more specialised funds.”

Areas of LP interest

Investors give several indications where they see attractive opportunities in this edition of the Barometer.

Emerging economies remain a strategic imperative – with 15-20% of LPs planning to begin or increase PE commitments to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South East Asia. Another popular region is Latin America, where one in seven LPs expect to begin or increase commitments. India is the area over which investors betray most uncertainty: the same proportion of LPs (8%) plan to increase and to reduce their commitments in the subcontinent.

LP backing for funds taking minority positions in private companies looks to remain strong. Half of investors are already committed to such funds, and an additional 13% of LPs said they are likely to seek this kind of exposure in the future. Investors will also be interested in GPs with strong buy-and-build credentials – two thirds of LPs believe buy-and-build investments will outperform other buyout investments in the next 3-5 years.

Private equity investment in ‘real assets’ is another increasingly popular area. Two thirds of LPs already have private equity exposure to energy-focused funds; half have private equity exposure to real estate; and between a quarter and a third of LPs have investments in funds focused on mining, shipping, timber and farmland. The Barometer shows that all these areas will attract new investors over the next three years.

Credit investment is another focus for investors – one third of LPs say they plan to scale up their exposure to credit over the next 12 months. Banks’ relatively weaker position in credit markets is illustrated by LPs’ views on future sources of debt funding for buyouts: just over a third of investors expect banks to take a bigger share of buyout debt in the next three years, compared with almost two thirds expecting a higher share for CLOs and high-yield bonds.

The Barometer confirms that the trend toward more direct investing by LPs (i.e., proprietary investments into private companies and co-investments alongside GPs) will continue. Approaching half (45%) of today’s LPs do no direct private equity investing or have less than a tenth of their exposure to ‘directs’, but only one in five LPs expects to be in the same position in five years’ time.

Gender diversity in private equity firms

The majority (88%) of private equity investors (most of whom are male) believe that a higher proportion of women in senior positions at GPs would have little direct impact on private equity returns. However, three in five LPs also believe that PE firms benefit more broadly from gender diversity. Around 70% of these investors say that greater gender diversity at senior levels results in better team quality and team dynamics in private equity firms; and around 40% see benefits to GPs’ governance, investor relations, and risk management.

DC pension funds

Attempts are currently being made to solve the problems associated with defined contribution (DC) pension plans investing in private equity. The Barometer shows that a large majority (88%) of Limited Partners expect these initiatives to succeed, and that DC plans will make private equity commitments over the next five years. However, most (70% of) investors believe DC pension schemes will remain a minor source of capital for the industry.

Additional Barometer findings

The Winter 2014-15 edition of the Barometer also charts investors’ views and opinions on:

  • The economic cycle and the risk of deflation in the eurozone
  • The PE exit environment
  • GPs’ use of debt
  • LP recruitment and pay scales
  • Venture capital and early-stage innovation
  • Chinese GPs’ ambitions
  • LP understanding of the industry post-crash
  • The effect of regulation on PE returns
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