Borrow Cheap, Buy High? The Determinants of Leverage and Pricing in Buyouts
65 Pages Posted: 3 May 2010 Last revised: 1 Feb 2021
Date Written: April 2010
This paper provides an empirical analysis of the financial structure of large buyouts. We collect detailed information on the financing of 1157 worldwide private equity deals from 1980 to 2008. Buyout leverage is cross-sectionally unrelated to the leverage of matched public firms, and is largely driven by factors other than what explains leverage in public firms. In particular, the economy-wide cost of borrowing is the main driver of both the quantity and the composition of debt in these buyouts. Credit conditions also have a strong effect on prices paid in buyouts, even after controlling for prices of equivalent public market companies. Finally, the use of high leverage in transactions negatively affects fund performance, controlling for fund vintage and other relevant characteristics. The results are consistent with the view that the availability of financing impacts booms and busts in the private equity market, and that agency problems between private equity funds and their investors can affect buyout capital structures.
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