Fundraising slowdown? Don’t believe it for a second

What fund close data tells us about the market – and what it leaves out.

Looking at our half-yearly fundraising numbers, you could be forgiven for thinking that the market has gone quiet.

The number of funds holding final closes in the first six months of the year was, at 230, much less than half of the 677 for all of 2017. The total capital accounted for in those closes – $162 billion – was significantly less than the $284 billion raised in H1 2017. You can take a more detailed look at the numbers in this interactive presentation.

But while final closes can be the best way to accurately document capital raised, they don’t take into account ongoing efforts. The likes of Carlyle Group, Ardian and Lexington Partners are all out at the moment trying to raise funds in the $10 billion-plus bracket. It is safe to assume all will have success.

On the ground, fundraising activity is still frenetic. Investors tell us it is commonplace for firms to speed up their return to market by counting ‘reserved’ or ‘committed’ capital alongside invested capital when judging whether they have reached their threshold to raise again. It’s not the crime of the century, but as one high-ranking investment consultant put it, it is not in the “spirit” of the LP-GP agreement.

For another indicator of robust fundraising sentiment, consider Blackstone. The firm’s fundraising plans – across all asset classes – are a good indicator of what mega-firms think is possible. Chairman Steve Schwarzman told investors late last week that the firm is ramping up its fundraising ‘supercycle’. If his choice of language has an epic ring to it, it’s because the amounts under consideration are epic: the firm is on track to raise $300 billion over the three-year period from 2017-19.

Blackstone has grown its assets under management 18 percent year-on-year to $439 billion, driven by inflows of $120 billion in the last 12 months: “an all-time record for both Blackstone and any other alternative investment fund”, Schwarzman said, noting that the ability of the firm to continue raising large-scale capital “begins and ends with investment performance”.

This buoyant market comes with a health warning. As Warren Hibbert –  one of PEI’s Rainmaker 50 – describes in this video, the split in the fundraising market is as stark as ever, with the mega-fund ‘haves’ pulling investors’ time, capital and relationships away from ‘have-nots’.

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