Private Equity and the Covid-19 Economic Downturn: Opportunity for Expansion?

The coronavirus-related global economic downturn poses a significant risk to PE portfolio companies, but also represents a significant opportunity to purchase quality companies at a discount. Because the industry is today much larger, as well as more diversified and experienced, than at the time of the 2008 downturn, it is better positioned not only to weather the severe economic storm, but emerge with an even larger and stronger asset base.

Compared with PE at the time of the global financial crisis, today’s $3.9 trillion private equity industry has considerably more dry powder, with more heavily capitalized strategies, including private credit and “secondaries,” more permanent capital, and stronger operational capabilities. In contrast with the pre-crisis hyper-competitive market environment in which purchase multiples were at record highs and returns faced significant downward pressure, the fear and uncertainty that characterize current market conditions have put PE in a position to grow its asset base at bargain prices. The advantages of scale, diversification, adaptability, and access to longer-term capital are all expected to help today’s larger alternative asset groups, which have in recent years achieved greater diversification in terms of strategy as well as geography and investors.