Ashmore: Private Equity Is Deep Underwater

The private equity industry has indeed sunk if it is being compared with the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.

Asked at Dow Jones’ Limited Partners conference to come up with a theme song for the industry, Nick Ashmore, head of private equity at the National Pensions Reserve Fund in Dublin, reeled off an imaginative few suggestions including: Yellow Submarine, nominated for all the funds underwater; and Hotel California, dedicated to all the real estate funds where investors could check out but never leave.

Ashmore told investors at the conference he had “sensible” expectations about returns from buyout deals done at the top of the boom, particularly from the bubble period of early 2006 to mid-2007. “We don’t expect them to generate massive returns.”

He has “very high expectations for capital we have committed but not deployed” but doesn’t see himself deploying much cash this year to the asset class.

“If we do any commitments at all this year it will be very modest and probably be around distressed,” Ashmore said.

Moreover, investors — known as LPs — aren’t working together to push for better terms.

“Terms have long been a difficult area, because LPs don’t coordinate or work together to apply the right degree of pressure… to achieve the changes,” he said.

It ends up being “potluck when you do apply pressure on terms”, he said.

This post first appeared at Reuters Dealzone