Equity Co-Investment: Exploring The Dynamics For Returns

Edited By yashovardhan sharma on Mar 21,2024
Equity Co-Investment with sign on the sheet

A minority stake in a company, known as an equity co-investment, is made by investors in conjunction with a private equity fund manager or venture capital firm. This arrangement allows investors to engage in potentially lucrative ventures without incurring the customary high fees associated with private equity funds. Equity co-investment opportunities are usually reserved for large institutional investors who already have established relationships with the private equity fund manager, thereby often excluding smaller or retail investors.


Understanding Equity Co-Investments

According to reports, 80% of Limited Partners (LPs) have experienced better performance through equity co-investments compared to traditional fund structures. In a typical co-investment scenario, the investor compensates a fund sponsor or general partner (GP) with whom they maintain a defined private equity partnership. This partnership agreement delineates how the GP allocates capital and diversifies assets. Co-investments bypass conventional limited partnership (LP) and general (GP) funds by directly investing in a company.


Reasons Limited Partners Seek More Co-Investments



Image Source: LinkedIn

In recent years, consulting firm McKinsey reported a substantial increase in the value of co-investment deals by institutional investors, soaring to $104 billion within six years. The proportion of Limited Partners (LPs) engaging in co-investments in private equity (PE) surged from 42 percent to 55 percent over the past five years. However, the growth in direct investing LPs barely budged, inching up by merely one percent from 30 percent to 31 percent during the same period.


Why would a private equity fund manager opt to share a potentially lucrative opportunity?

Typically, private equity investments are routed through an LP vehicle into a diversified portfolio of companies. In certain scenarios, the LP's funds might already be fully committed to numerous enterprises. Consequently, if another promising opportunity arises, the private equity fund manager faces the dilemma of either relinquishing the opportunity or extending it to certain investors as an equity co-investment. According to Axial, a platform for equity raising, nearly 80% of LPs favor small to mid-market buyout strategies, with investments ranging from $2 to $10 million per co-investment. Essentially, this preference underscores their inclination towards less conspicuous companies specializing in niche areas, rather than pursuing high-profile corporate investments. Notably, almost 50% of sponsors waived any management fee on co-investments some years ago.


Equity co-investment has significantly contributed to the recent growth in private equity fundraising since the financial crisis, in contrast to traditional fund investments. Consulting firm PwC asserts that LPs increasingly seek co-investment opportunities during negotiations of new fund agreements with advisers due to heightened deal selectivity and the potential for greater returns. While most LPs typically pay a 2% management fee and 20% carried interest to the fund manager (the General Partner or GP), co-investors enjoy reduced fees or even fee waivers in some instances, thereby enhancing their returns.


The Appeal of Co-Investments for General Partners

At first glance, it may appear that General Partners (GPs) stand to lose out on fee revenue and relinquish some degree of control over the fund through co-investments. However, by offering co-investments, GPs can sidestep constraints on capital exposure or diversification requirements. For instance, consider a $500 million fund intending to invest in three enterprises valued at $300 million each. The partnership agreement might restrict fund investments to $100 million per enterprise, resulting in leverage of $200 million per company. If a new opportunity arises with an enterprise value of $350 million, the GP would need to secure funding beyond the fund's structure, as it can only directly invest $100 million. In this scenario, the GP could obtain $100 million in financing through borrowing and extend co-investment opportunities to existing Limited Partners (LPs) or external parties.

You May Also Like: Experian Vs. Equifax - Understanding Your Credit Universe


Exploring the Ins and Outs of Co-Investments

Structuring Venture Capital Funds

Image Source: LinkedIn

Although engaging in co-investments within private equity transactions presents its perks, participants should meticulously review the terms before committing. A crucial consideration revolves around the lack of transparency regarding fees. Private equity entities often provide scant information regarding the fees levied on Limited Partners (LPs). In instances like co-investments, where they ostensibly offer fee-free access to sizable deals, there may be concealed expenses. For instance, they might impose monitoring fees, potentially totaling millions of dollars, which might not be readily apparent to LPs.


Furthermore, there's the prospect that private equity firms could receive payments from companies within their portfolio to endorse specific deals. These arrangements also pose risks for co-investors, as they lack influence over deal selection or structuring. Ultimately, the success or failure of these transactions hinges on the expertise of the private equity professionals steering the ship. However, this may not always be optimal, leading to potential setbacks. A notable instance is the case of Aceco T1, a Brazilian data center company. In 2014, private equity firm KKR & Co. acquired the company alongside co-investors, including the Singaporean investment firm GIC and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. However, it was later discovered that the company had misrepresented its financials since 2012. Consequently, KKR wrote off its investment in Aceco T1 entirely in 2017.

Similar Reads You May Enjoy: Principal-Agent Relationship: Navigating The Dynamics



Delving into the dynamics of equity co-investment offers a multifaceted understanding of this collaborative approach within the realm of private equity. While it presents enticing opportunities for investors to participate in potentially lucrative ventures without the burden of high fees, it's imperative to navigate the nuances and potential pitfalls carefully. Throughout this exploration, we've uncovered the intricate balance between risk and reward inherent in co-investment deals. From the perspectives of both Limited Partners (LPs) and General Partners (GPs), there are strategic advantages to be gained, yet these benefits come with inherent challenges, such as fee transparency and the potential for hidden costs.


Moreover, examining real-world examples underscores the importance of due diligence and vigilance in evaluating co-investment opportunities. Instances like the Aceco T1 case serve as poignant reminders of the risks involved and the critical role played by effective oversight and decision-making by all parties involved.

This content was created by AI