Vanguard has a paper on Private Equity: Private Equity Performance Measurement and its Role in a Portfolio (June 2003)
1. Investing in Private Equity Funds: A Survey by Phalippou, Ludovic (2007)
This literature review covers the issues faced by private equity fund investors. It shows what has currently been established in the literature and what has yet to be investigated. In particular, it shows the many important questions to be answered by future research. The survey shows that the average investor has obtained poor returns from investments in private equity funds, potentially because of excessive fees. Overall, investors need to gain familiarity with actual risk, past return, and specific features of private equity funds. Increased familiarity will improve the sustainability of this industry that plays such a central role in the economy.
2. Private Equity Performance: Returns, Persistence and Capital Flows by Steve Kaplan and Antoinette Schoar (2004)
This paper investigates the performance and capital infows of private equity partnerships. Average fund returns (net of fees) approximately equal the S&P 500 although there is substantial heterogeneity across funds. Returns persist strongly across different funds raised by a partnership. Better performing partnerships are more likely to raise follow-on funds and larger funds. This relationship is concave so that top performing partnerships grow proportionally less than average performing partnerships. At the industry level, market entry and fund performance is cyclical; however, established funds are less sensitive to cycles than new entrants. Several of these results differ markedly from those for mutual funds.
3. The Performance of Private Equity Funds by Phalippou, L., and M. Zollo (September,2005)
Using a dataset of 1,579 mature private equity funds, the authors find that the performance estimates found in previous research and used as industry benchmark are overstated. They show that commonly used samples are biased towards better-performing funds and that accounting values reported by mature funds for nonexited investments are substantial and mostly represent “living dead” investments. After correcting for sample bias and overstated accounting values, average fund performance changes from slight overperformance to substantial underperformance. Assuming a typical fee structure, they find that gross of fees, these funds outperform by about 4 percent a year.
4. An Index For Venture Capital by John M. Quigley and Susan E. Woodward (2003)
In this paper we build an index of value for venture capital. Our approach overcomes the problems of intermittent, infrequent pricing of private company deals by using a repeat valuation model to build the index, and it corrects for selection bias in the reporting of values. We use a unique data set from Sand Hill Econometrics. The index measures the return and risk for venture capital. Its covariance with other asset classes from 1987-1999 enables us to explore the role of venture capital in diversified portfolios during a period of increased importance of venture capital in the economy.
5. The Risk and Return of Venture Capital by John H. Cochrane (January 2001)
This paper measures the mean, standard deviation, alpha and beta of venture capital investments, using a maximum likelihood estimate that corrects for selection bias. Since firms go public when they have achieved a good return, estimates that do not correct for selection bias are optimistic.
The selection bias correction neatly accounts for log returns. Without a selection bias correction, I find a mean log return of about 100% and a log CAPM intercept of about 90%. With the selection bias correction, I find a mean log return of about 7% with a -2% intercept. However, returns are very volatile, with standard deviation near 100%. Therefore, arithmetic average returns and intercepts are much higher than geometric averages. The selection bias correction attenuates but does not eliminate high arithmetic average returns. Without a selection bias correction, I find an arithmetic average return of around 700% and a CAPM alpha of nearly 500%. With the selection bias correction, I find arithmetic average returns of about 53% and CAPM alpha of about 45%.
Second, third, and fourth rounds of financing are less risky. They have progressively lower volatility, and therefore lower arithmetic average returns. The betas of successive rounds also decline dramatically from near 1 for the first round to near zero for fourth rounds.
The maximum likelihood estimate matches many features of the data, in particular the pattern of IPO and exit as a function of project age, and the fact that return distributions are stable across horizons.
6.) Caveats when Venturing into the Buyout World: Is the Devil in the Details? by Phalippou, Ludovic, (July 2007)
This paper discusses performance of buyout funds, the contracts between funds and investors and the information contained in fund-raising prospectuses. It shows that economically significant sources of variation in fees as well as the explanation for their high level are in the 'details' of the contracts. The most striking facts are that incentive fees can be received by a fund while the rate-of-return is negative. Also, management fees are only 2% but are charged on more than capital invested. In addition, a number of economically significant fees are charged to portfolio companies by fund managers and thus indirectly to investors. Finally, several additional fees are charged and are economically sizeable.
This article then shows that most of the actual contracts may exacerbate potential conflicts of interest rather than mitigate them. The fact that those in control (fund managers) have some discretion in charging fees to portfolio companies (owned by investors) could lead to some conflicts of interest. In addition, several contract clauses provide steep incentives to exit investments too early (short horizon). Furthermore, contracts do not seem optimal as they reward shirking. I show that a buyout fund that would pursue a passive investment strategy (a closet index fund) would have received more than 6% per year of fees in the 1990s.
Finally, it shows i) how flexibility in the aggregation of fund performance offers room for exaggerating performance figures, ii) that low IRR figures are often not mentioned in fund-raising prospectuses, iii) that good track records are seen much more often by investors than inferior ones, iv) that information needed for assessing past performance is often missing, and and vi) that the lack of rule/standard for valuing on-going investments provides yet another way to inflate performance reports.
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