Investor Education

Learn About Private Equity

What is a Private Equity Fund?

Private Equity ("PE") Funds

The majority of PE investments are made through closed-end PE Funds managed by professional PE managers. A fund manager typically raises capital for a PE Fund from investors using a limited partnership structure. The fund manager performs the role of general partner ("GP") and makes key investment and management decisions. Investors are known as limited partners ("LP") and have a limited influence on the Fund's investment decisions.

Limited Partnership Structure

The year in which a fund commences its operations or begins to draw capital from its investors is typically referred to as its "vintage" year. Under this structure, the GP directs capital into Investee Companies as investments and usually acquires a majority ownership position in order to exercise meaningful control of the company's board, governance, and operations.

PE Fund Strategies

Generally, PE Funds aim to improve the financial performance of investee companies and help realise their growth potential. They do so by investing in such companies and making operational improvements. Each investment is usually between 3-7 years, after which the fund managers will seek to realise profits on these investments either through a sale or an initial public offering ("IPO").

PE Funds are categorised by the investment strategies they employ, each with varying risk, return, and liquidity profiles. Key investment strategies employed by PE Funds are:

  • Buyout
    Purchase of controlling stakes in an investee company often resulting in the control over the investee company's assets and operations and involving acquisition leverage

  • Growth Equity
    Investments in profitable but still maturing companies which are seeking capital to expand or enter into new markets

  • Real Estate
    Investments in real estate properties

  • Private Debt
    Investments in an array of illiquid credit instruments

  • Venture Capital
    Investments in start-up or less mature companies which are expanding

Diversified Investments by PE Funds

Individual PE Funds attempt to achieve a certain level of portfolio diversification, and each PE Fund's Limited Partnership Agreement ("LPA") generally contains provisions limiting the concentration of any single portfolio investment within its regional and sector remit. The result is typically a portfolio of ten or more investee companies, made over a multi-year period.

PE Industry Trends

Significant Growth in AUM

The PE industry’s assets under management (“AUM”) has enjoyed significant growth of approximately 11.7% per annum since 2000. The AUM, valued at approximately US$5.8 trillion as at June 2020 (Fig 1.), comprises both unrealised value of PE investments under management and available capital for investment, or “dry powder”.

Fig. 1: Evolution of PE AUM

Source: Preqin, November 2020. Data as of 30 March 2020. Data includes Buyout (Preqin Classification: Buyout), Growth Equity (Preqin Classification: Growth), Venture Capital (Preqin Classification: Early Stage (All), Expansion / Late Stage, and Venture (General)), Private Debt (Preqin Classification: Distressed Debt, Mezzanine, and Venture Debt), and Real Estate.

PE Funds AUM

Data as of June 2020 shows that US-focused PE Funds represent the majority of global PE AUM (56%), followed by Europe, Asia, and the remaining Rest of World ("RoW") (Fig. 2). In terms of strategy, Buyout represents the majority of global PE AUM (39%) (Fig. 3).

Fig. 2: Regional Breakdown of PE AUM

Fig. 3: Strategy Breakdown of PE AUM


Strong Fundraising Environment

Beginning in 2013, the PE industry has experienced annual net cash distributions which have supported a strong fundraising environment as investors seek to redeploy capital inflows into new fund commitments. Fundraising activity has grown steadily with the annual aggregate capital raised reaching a new peak in 2019 of over US$800 billion. The first 6 months of 2020 recorded aggregate capital raised of approximately US$578 billion across over 1,457 funds.

Fig. 4: PE Fundraising

Increase in PE Deal Activity

In the meantime, PE fund managers have found this environment attractive to monetise their mature investments. Per Figure 8, 2019 recorded positive Buyout exit momentum with aggregate exit value up approximately 10.1% year-on-year to approximately US$451 billion. During the first 6 months of 2020, aggregate Buyout exit value stood at around US$112 billion. The majority of Buyout exit value in 2019 was achieved by selling the portfolio companies in trade sales to other market participants and competitors (54%), while the balance was split mainly between sales to other PE Funds (23%), public listings through IPOs (19%), and recapitalisations, restructurings, or sales to management (4%).

Fig. 5: Company Exits from Buyout Funds