With credit for leveraged buyouts still scarce, the private-equity balance of power remains with investors. In a report published earlier this month, Bain & Company, a consultancy, makes some predictions about private equity’s prospects “in a future devoid of free-flowing credit, multiple arbitrage and mega-deal opportunities.”
Before conditions improve, investors are looking to “strike while the iron is hot,” as one investor tells Bain, and “rebalance the relationship” with fund managers. On fees, investors think that they have the most leeway to negotiate on transaction and monitoring fees. In the words of another investor in the Bain report, this is the “most abused area” in private equity.
Transaction fees are charged when acquisitions are made by funds and monitoring fees are levied on portfolio companies for advisory services. In its latest survey of the US private equity industry, Dechert, a law firm, reckons that funds charge an average transaction fee of 1.1% of deal size and a monitoring fee of 1.4% of annual operating earnings. In addition to these fees, investors in Bain’s survey are also bullish on renegotiating the traditional annual management fee, suggesting that all expenses unrelated to the performance of funds are under review. How willing, or able, are fund managers to resist?