As we near the midpoint of 2019, both private and public markets have experienced some turbulence. Geopolitical concerns over things like Brexit and trade wars have translated into rocky territory for the value of public equities. Last week, after President Trump announced he would be instating tariffs on Mexico, the Nasdaq finished trading in what is known as correction territory—when an index closes at least 10% below its recent peak. And in another corner of the markets, falling bond prices led to an inversion of the yield curve in March, resulting in an industry-wide debate over the potential for an upcoming recession.
These aspects of the public markets have ignited a chain reaction with the private markets and private equity in general. As we have explored in our 1Q 2019 US PE Breakdown, deal count in 1Q has declined from highs of previous years. The number of exits has dropped even further, as plunging prices in the public markets pressured mark-to-mark valuations of PE-backed companies at the end of 2018, per our 1Q 2019 US PE Middle Market Report, prompting GPs to wait for price improvements before exiting.
Yet despite the trepidation surrounding the markets, some PE firms have continued to buy up companies.
Glenn Youngkin, a co-leader of The Carlyle Group (#7 on the list of this year’s most active investors), doesn’t believe that the numbers foreshadow a recession this year or even next year, per reports. Leon Black, a co-founder of Apollo Global Management, seconds the notion, and stated at Bloomberg’s Invest New York conference last week that he doesn’t see a recession happening until after the 2020 presidential election.
With US and European firms wielding an estimated $800 billion-plus in dry powder, per our Private Fund Strategies Report, and a reported $2 trillion in PE coffers worldwide, the flow of dealmaking can only be interrupted for so long. And as LPs continue to pour money into private equity, an asset class that has delivered outstanding returns over the course of their existence, funds continue to grow larger, and firms must continue investing.
Which are the unwavering firms? Using the PitchBook Platform, we’ve compiled a list of the most active PE investors of 2019 so far:
Investor Deal Count
Audax Group 34
Kohlberg Kravis Roberts 31
Business Growth Fund 30
Summit Partners 24
ABRY Partners 23
HarbourVest Partners 23
The Carlyle Group 22
TA Associates Management 20
Vista Equity Partners 19
Insight Partners 19
Audax Group, who is known for its add-on acquisition style, topped our list. Other large players such as KKR and The Carlyle Group have also been busy making deals while outpacing large public PE comrades Blackstone and Apollo. On the other end of the spectrum, you have Vista Equity, whose co-founder just made headlines donating millions of dollars to pay off the student loan debt of Morehouse’s graduating class.
Breaking down their deals even further, the most active firms tended to invest largely in B2B and IT deals, accounting for 160 of these firms’ 251 total deals or nearly 64% of deals, as indicated by the pie chart. This is a small step up from private equity as a whole, which invested 58% in the two sectors in the first quarter of this year, according to our 1Q 2019 US PE Breakdown.