Forms of Private Equity
There are a wide array of types and styles of private equity and the term private equity has different connotations in different countries. Private equity investments can be divided into the following main categories:
- Venture capital: a broad subcategory of private equity that refers to equity investments made, typically in less mature companies, for the launch, early development, or expansion of a business. Venture Capital is often sub-divided by the stage of development of the company ranging from early stage capital used for the launch of start-up companies to late stage and growth capital that is often used to fund expansion of existing business that are generating revenue but may not yet be profitable or generating cash flow to fund future growth.
- Growth capital: refers to equity investments, most often minority investments, in more mature companies that are looking for capital to expand or restructure operations, enter new markets or finance a major acquisition without a change of control of the business.
- Leveraged buyout, LBO or Buyout: refers to a strategy of making equity investments as part of a transaction in which a company, business unit or business assets are acquired from the current shareholders typically with the use of financial leverage. The companies involved in these transactions are typically more mature and generate operating cash flows.
Other strategies that can be considered private equity or a close adjacent market include:
- Distressed or Special situations: can refer to investments in equity or debt securities of a distressed company, or a company where value can be unlocked as a result of a one-time opportunity (e.g., a change in government regulations or market dislocation). These categories can refer to a number of strategies, some of which straddle the definition of private equity.
- Mezzanine capital: refers to subordinated debt or preferred equity securities that often represents the most junior portion of a company's capital structure that is senior to the company's common equity.
- Real Estate: in the context of private equity this will typically refer to the riskier end of the investment spectrum including "value added" and opportunity funds where the investments often more closely resemble leveraged buyouts than traditional real estate investments. Certain investors in private equity consider real estate to be a separate asset class.
- Secondary investments: refer to investments made in existing private equity assets including private equity fund interests or portfolios of direct investments in privately held companies through the purchase of these investments from existing institutional investors. Often these investments are structured similar to a fund of funds.
- Infrastructure: investments in various public works (e.g., bridges, tunnels, toll roads, airports, public transportation and other public works) that are made typically as part of a privatization initiative on the part of a government entity.
- Energy and Power: investments in a wide variety of companies (rather than assets) engaged in the production and sale of energy, including fuel extraction, manufacturing, refining and distribution (Energy) or companies engaged in the production or transmission of electrical power.