The news coming from LPs’ investment board meetings has been a mixed bag over the past 12 to 18 months. Amid an ongoing battle with the denominator effect and the subsequent imbalance it has brought to their portfolios, there seem to be two main routes LPs have chosen to take: to drastically cut their allocations to private markets, or to go in the opposite direction by boosting their exposure instead.
With the fundraising environment still unsteady at best, it’s too soon to tell which approach has yielded the best results for investors.
However, this year’s Global Investor 100 ranking does tell a story of its own: even amid uncertain market conditions, private equity limited partners are confident enough in the state of the asset class to divvy out more than their fair share of capital.
Minimum private equity portfolio required to feature in this year’s GI 100
The private equity portfolio of CPP Investments, which once again tops the list
Proportion of the GI 100’s aggregate $2.12 trillion private equity portfolio held by public pension funds
Private Equity International’s annual GI 100 ranking lists the top 100 investors in the asset class by the fair value of their private equity investment portfolios. Unless stated otherwise, all figures were calculated on a single date: in this year’s case, 31 December 2022.
The full list of 100 institutions had a private equity exposure of a record-breaking $2.12 trillion between them, an increase of almost 20 percent from the year prior. The top 10 alone hold $803 billion in PE assets, with an average allocation of 20 percent.
“For LPs, investing in PE funds has truly proved itself to be an ‘all weather’ strategy,” says Scott Church, co-founder of Rede Partners. “In part, this is because the enormous breadth and diversity of PE strategies allows investors to pick and choose funds according to the latest market conditions.”
Commenting on this year’s record-breaking exposure, he adds: “It speaks to the active nature of private equity fund management. The way that PE investment is structured, through control and influential minority stakes managed by well-aligned GPs with a long-term outlook, underpins the ability of PE managers to respond effectively to changing market conditions.”
Breaking down the numbers
The bar for appearing on the GI 100 has increased exponentially since previous editions of the ranking. LPs needed a PE portfolio of at least $5.8 billion to appear on the 2023 list, up from $5.1 billion last year. Only three years ago, in the 2020 list, the minimum was $2.4 billion.
CPP Investments, which has been in the leading position on every GI 100 ranking published so far, takes first place again with its $134.8 billion allocation to private equity as of end-2022. Its 34 percent allocation is an increase on the 30 percent recorded a year previously.
Speaking to PEI earlier this year, CPP Investments’ global head of private equity, Suyi Kim, explained how the public pension fund has maintained robust performance even amid a difficult fundraising environment. “We have invested in very good GPs and companies whose underlying performance has been good… So we get to continue to see for our portfolio companies very strong top-line and bottom-line growth.”
The regional breakdown of the GI 100 list takes a predictable shape, falling roughly in line with previous years. North American investors account for more than 53.4 percent of the total allocation to private equity, at $1.13 trillion. The Asia-Pacific region’s exposure is less than half of this amount, having allocated $510 billion to the asset class as of end-2022 – still a sizeable increase on the $351 billion recorded a year previously, even amid subdued appetites for investment within the region.
Europe follows just behind APAC at $318 billion – 15 percent of this year’s global total. It does, however, account for the greatest number of new entrants in the ranking: of the nine new institutions to grace the GI 100, four are based in Europe. These include France’s AXA Group, the Netherlands’ PKA and Royal Dutch Shell Pension Fund, and Switzerland’s Chubb
Limited, all of which are positioned in the top 70.
MENA investors bring up the rear in terms of regional spread, with 7.6 percent of the total exposure. However, the entire amount is accounted for by just two LPs, both of which sit in the top 10. Mubadala Investment Company and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, both sovereign wealth funds based in Abu Dhabi, are behind the MENA region’s entire $162
“LPs in North America and Europe [remain key], but we are seeing real momentum outside of these geographies as the word spreads,” Church says. “We expect to see a continued growth in allocations to PE among LPs from Asia, the Middle East and Latin America as they move towards convergence with their US and European peers.”
The investment landscape has changed immeasurably over the last year or two, with even the most experienced LPs forced to reassess the best way to manage their portfolios. They should take some reassurance from this year’s GI 100: its record-breaking total serves as a reminder of investors’ endurance in the face of a complex environment.