Private equity fundraising in North America and Europe hit another all-time high in 2019, driven in part by mega funds closed by firms including Blackstone and Leonard Green & Partners. But this rush of capital into private equity is likely to slow down in 2020, according to PitchBook.
Analysts at the private markets data firm projected a decline in fundraising based on the small number of funds that are currently in the market looking to raise more than $10 billion. This compares with several mega funds closed in 2019, including the $12 billion fundraise for Leonard Green’s eighth flagship private equity fund that was announced last week.
In addition, five other private equity firms said in November that they had raised an aggregate of $42.2 billion. Meanwhile, Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman revealed in his new book, What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence, that Blackstone Capital Partners VII had $26 billion in committed capital, making it the largest private equity fund ever raised.
These giant fundraises contributed to what is now the highest annual fundraising total on record in North America and Europe, according to PitchBook. The data firm reported that $342.9 billion had already been committed to private equity funds on the two continents as of November 14.
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PitchBook analysts don’t expect fundraising in 2020 to reach these heights, although they said it is “sure to be strong when compared to almost any other year.” Still, given the speed with which general partners have been able to raise funds lately, PitchBook noted that it would be possible for general partners to announce and close mega funds within the span of 2020.
“Another factor adding to the chances of a down year in fundraising is the possibility of a drawdown in public equities; we would then expect to see a ‘denominator effect’ in which LPs must slow the pace of new commitment to PE since other parts of the portfolio have seen devaluations,” the firm’s analysts said.
A fundraising slowdown was one of several predictions made by PitchBook analysts in their 2020 outlook of the private equity industry. Other forecasts focused on the continued diversification of private equity firm offerings, as the world’s largest general partners increasingly turn themselves into one-stop shops.
For instance, PitchBook suggested there could be another acquisition of a major alternative asset manager, following Brookfield’s $4.7 billion purchase of two-thirds of Oaktree Capital Management in March and SoftBank’s $3.3 billion acquisition of Fortress Investment Group in 2017.
“Many institutional investors want separately managed accounts with allocations across PE, private debt, real estate, and hedge funds, and GPs are willing to scale to provide such exposure all under one roof,” the PitchBook report stated. “Credit specialists are the most likely to be picked off since they allow GPs to participate in similar deals across all parts of the capital stack.”
In addition, PitchBook predicted that the four big publicly traded private equity firms — Blackstone, Apollo Global Management, KKR, and the Carlyle Group — would expand into new strategies at a comparatively fast pace, with the aim of increasing their share prices by growing their total assets under management.
On the limited partner side, PitchBook analysts suggested that sovereign wealth funds and pension plans would seek to increase their control over their private equity investments in 2020, through co-investments or direct investments in private companies. While “dealmaker salaries, which may stretch into the millions of dollars annually, are not palatable to U.S. pensions,” the PitchBook analysts noted that most sovereign wealth funds “do not have the same issue with public disclosures of salaries.”
“While we believe U.S. pension plans will follow suit, SWFs will likely do it sooner and scoop up high-quality talent,” the report stated.