Leveraged Buyouts in the U.K. And Continental Europe: Retrospect and Prospect
20 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2006
In view of the record levels of capital raised by European private equity funds in recent years - which, until 2005, exceeded the amounts invested in any given year - we can expect more growth in private equity investment in the near future. In continental Europe, the prospects for buyouts remain especially strong, given both the pressure from investors to restructure larger corporations and the possibilities for adding value in family-owned firms. But, as the authors note, today's private equity firms face a number of challenges in earning adequate returns for their investors. One is increased competition. In addition to the increased activity of U.S. private equity firms, local private equity investors are also facing competition from hedge funds and new entrants such as government-sponsored operators, family offices, and wealthy entrepreneurs. Another major challenge is finding value-preserving exit vehicles. Although an IPO is an option for the largest buyouts with growth prospects, most buyout investments are harvested either through sales to other companies or, increasingly, other private equity firms. The latter transactions, known as secondary buyouts, now account for a significant share of new funds invested by private equity firms across Europe. The markets for management buyouts in the U.K. and continental Europe have experienced dramatic growth in the past ten years. In the U.K., buyouts accounted for half of the total M&A activity (measured by value) in 2005. And as in the U.S. during the 80s, the greatest number of U.K. buyouts in recent years have been management- and investor-led acquisitions of divisions of large corporations. In continental Europe, by contrast, the largest fraction of deals has involved the purchase of family-owned private businesses. But in recent years, increased pressure for shareholder value in countries like France, Netherlands, and even Germany has led to a growing number of buyouts of divisions of listed companies. Like the U.K., continental Europe has also seen a small but growing number of purchases of entire public companies (known as private-to-public transactions, or PTPs), including the largest ever buyout in Europe, the 13 billion purchase this year of the Danish corporation TDC.
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