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  • Writer's pictureVolpe Financial Solutions

Private Equity - Should You Invest?

Whether you realize it or not, many of the goods, services and products you use every day are from private equity-backed companies. From picking up a box of doughnuts at Krispy Kreme to grabbing dog food at PetSmart or securing your home with a system like Vivint, private equity is all around us—all the time. Picking up A&W or Panera Bread on the way home? PE-backed. Looking into your family history with Ancestry? PE-backed.

What is private equity?

Private equity (PE) is a form of financing where money, or capital, is invested into a company. Typically, PE investments are made into mature businesses in traditional industries in exchange for equity, or ownership stake. PE is a major subset of a larger, more complex piece of the financial landscape known as the private markets. Private equity is an alternative asset class alongside real estate, venture capital, distressed securities and more. Alternative asset classes are considered less traditional equity investments, which means they are not as easily accessed as stocks and bonds in the public markets. You need to go through a licenced Exempt Market representative like Brett in order to access this market.

Types of private equity:

1. Venture Capital

Venture capital funds invest in start-ups and early-stage companies with high growth prospects. VC funds typically take only a minority stake, leaving control in the hands of the company management. It’s a riskier strategy because the companies often have little or no track record, but it can deliver spectacular rewards. Sequoia Capital’s $60 million investment in WhatsApp, for example, became worth about $3 billion when the company was acquired by Facebook in 2014.

2. Growth Capital

Growth capital is similar to venture capital but targets more mature companies. As with VC, the private equity fund provides a company with the cash to fuel growth, and takes a minority stake in return. It’s less speculative than venture capital, because the firms have a longer history and are often already profitable, but the successes are not quite as dramatic as a WhatsApp.

3. Real Estate

These funds invest in property and take a number of different strategies. Some funds are relatively conservative, investing in lower-risk rental properties with stable, predictable cash flows. Others invest in land or more speculative development deals, offering greater potential for returns but also greater risk.

4. Infrastructure

Infrastructure funds invest in utilities and transportation hubs like toll roads, airports, bridges, electricity and gas networks and hospitals. A popular area recently has been renewable energy, with funds investing in everything from solar power plants to offshore wind farms.

5. Fund of Funds

In this model, the fund doesn’t invest directly in companies or assets, but instead buys into a portfolio of other private equity funds. This allows investors to achieve the benefits of greater diversification and access funds they might not otherwise have been able to invest in. These funds of funds are managed by professional investors who charge a fee for their manager selection.

Who can invest?

Prospectus Exemptions. Where an issuer decides to distribute their securities in the exempt market, they do so under an exemption from the prospectus requirement. Some of the commonly used prospectus exemptions are:

1. Accredited investor (AI) exemption:

  • an individual who, alone or with a spouse, beneficially owns, directly or indirectly, net financial assets with a realizable value exceeding $1 million or has net assets of at least $5 million.

  • an individual whose net income before taxes exceeded $200,000 (or $300,000 when including the spouse’s income) in each of the two most recent calendar years and who expects to exceed that net income level in the current calendar year

2. Minimum amount (MA) exemption (or the $150,000 exemption):

  • is not an individual

  • the securities have an acquisition cost to the purchaser of not less than $150,000

3. Offering memorandum (OM) exemption:

  • net assets, alone or with a spouse, in the case of an individual, exceed $400,000

  • net income before taxes exceeded $75,000 in each of the two most recent calendar years and who reasonably expects to exceed that income level in the current calendar year, or

  • net income before taxes, alone or with a spouse, in the case of an individual, exceeded $125,000 in each of the two most recent calendar years and who reasonably expects to exceed that income level in the current calendar year

Why should I invest in Private Equity?

  • Low correlation to other asset classes: In terms of performance, Private Equity funds are less volatile than listed markets.

  • Diversification: You can diversify away from more traditional asset classes.

  • PE seeks higher returns by investing in a wide range of less liquid and longer-term private equity assets; and PE focuses on high alignment of interests between shareholders and management and emphasizes long-term value creation to deliver attractive risk-adjusted returns.

Source: * Our Exempt Market Dealer is Investia Financial Services.

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