By David Gregory of the Bank’s Markets, Sectors and Interlinkages Division
In the mid-2000s, there was a dramatic increase in acquisitions of UK companies by private equity funds. The leverage on these buyouts, especially the larger ones, was high. The resulting increase in indebtedness makes those companies more susceptible to default, exposing their lenders to potential losses. This risk is compounded by the need for companies to refinance a cluster of buyout debt maturing over the next few years in an environment of much tighter credit conditions. From a macroprudential policy perspective it will be important to monitor the use of debt in acquisitions in future episodes of exuberance. But there is also a potential role for private equity to play in promoting recovery in a downswing, in particular at the current juncture, by restructuring companies in difficulty.