How Fair are the Valuations of Private Equity Funds? Investors should be extremely wary of basing investment decisions on the returns – especially IRRs – of the current fund.

How Fair are the Valuations of Private Equity Funds?

Tim Jenkinson University of Oxford – Said Business School; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Miguel Sousa University of Oxford – Said Business School; School of Economics and Management, University of Porto

Rüdiger Stucke University of Oxford – Said Business School

February 27, 2013

Abstract: 
The ultimate performance of private equity funds is only known once all investments have been sold, and the cash returned to investors. This typically takes over a decade. In the meantime, the reported performance depends on the valuation of the remaining portfolio companies. Private equity houses market their next fund on the basis of these interim valuations of their current fund. In this paper we analyze whether these valuations are fair, whether the extent of conservative or aggressive valuations differ during the life of the fund, and at what stage interim performance measures predict ultimate performance. This paper is the first to use the quarterly valuations and cash flows for the entire history of 761 fund investments made by Calpers – the largest U.S. investor in private equity. Our main findings are as follows. First, over the entire life of the fund we find evidence that fund valuations are conservative, and tend to be smoothed (relative to movements in public markets): valuations understate subsequent distributions by around 35% on average. We find a significant jump in valuations in the fourth-quarter, when funds are normally audited. Second, the exception to this general conservatism is the period when follow-on funds are being raised. We find that valuations, and reported returns, are inflated during fundraising, with a gradual reversal once the follow-on fund has been closed. Third, we find that the performance figures reported by funds during fund-raising have little power to predict ultimate returns. This is especially true when performance is measured by IRR. Using public market equivalent measures increases predictability significantly. Our results show that investors should be extremely wary of basing investment decisions on the returns – especially IRRs – of the current fund.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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