Some of us have been working from home for some time; others are just settling in (for how long we don’t know). Most of us are getting used to getting regular peeks via telecon into our colleagues’ and contacts’ home lives.
Anyone struggling to adjust is, of course, not alone. Tuning into the New York City Comptroller’s investment meeting on Wednesday, you could see that many are grappling with video conference tech for the first time: there was cameo from a trustee’s golden retriever and a combination of WiFi and muted mics made passing votes a less than simple process.
So how does this translate to the business of raising capital? Private equity has always been hailed as a people business. Can millions of dollars-worth of commitments be made without a handshake? It would seem so, say sources.
Tikehau Capital noted in its results yesterday it had just completed due diligence with a pension consultant for a New York pension remotely and it “worked fairly well”.
“Everything is just moving to Webex and surprisingly things are moving forward,” says one placement agent. “We have had a few processes stall, but we are taking each process one day at a time.”
“Anyone who got well advanced and anticipated an H1 close are pushing hard to make that close,” says one LP currently involved in a couple of processes. “And I think they will make them.”
“The best GPs are still very much aware that they still have the upper hand in that [investors] want to get in these funds,” the LP notes. “In some instances, they are ramping up momentum, which is exactly what I would do.”
And there are some very large funds currently in market. CVC Capital Partners, EQT, Thoma Bravo, Ardian and several other managers are plotting funds north of $10 billion (quite far north in CVC’s case). You would be unwise to bet against them. For this reason, the headline H1 fundraising data could end up looking suprisingly “normal”.
Of course, it would be absurd to suggest that’s the end of the story.
What is happening to both the financial markets and the real economy has put a freeze on deals and left some institutional investors worrying about asset allocation and some worrying about liquidity. Capital calls from private equity portfolios – because of the prolific way credit lines are used – will keep coming this year even if the deals have stopped. Distributions are already starting to dry up, notes one LP source. Many LPs will have to pause or slow their programmes. The denominator effect – as we noted earlier this week – is looming large.
And while it is one thing to keep a fundraise moving, it is another to start one afresh. “We are frankly saying to GPs which have yet to kick off initial roadshows, ‘Look, there’s no way of coming out right now,’” Julian Pearson, co-founder of placement firm FirstPoint Equity told us this week.
We expect to be reporting on some substantial fund closes in the coming months, but we won’t be getting used to it.
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