By Ian Peacock and Stuart Cooper of the Bank’s Domestic Finance Division.
Private equity has become an important source of finance in recent years for firms wanting to undertake a major restructuring or capital investment. Previously, its increased use was mainly associated with the ‘back to basics’ policy of many large companies and the consequent sale of non-core subsidiaries. Private equity investment houses have, however, diversified into financing other types of transaction. In doing so, they have achieved some attractive rates of return on amounts invested, which has led to an increase in the funds at their disposal.
This article describes the current state of the UK private equity market. It also considers the extent to which private equity promotes efficiency by facilitating the ‘shake-up’ of businesses, and whether the success of investment houses in attracting substantially increased funds for investment poses any threats to financial stability. Private equity comprises equity investment in all types of unquoted companies, whether provided by individuals, funds or institutions. The article concentrates on larger transactions (particularly management buy-outs and buy-ins of over £10 million), and excludes start-up and early-stage venture capital finance, which in effect forms a distinct market with different characteristics.