The demise of private equity

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I am reading Charles R Morris’s The Triillion Dollar Meltdown at the moment, having also recently cheered myself up with Paul Krugman’s update of his classic, The Return Of Depression Economics.

As the private equity model implodes, Morris’s following words ring so wonderfully true:

“The leveraged-buyout business, after a highbrow restyling as private equity, came roaring back. A typical deal: Put up $1 billion, borrow $4 billiion more, snap up a healthy company for $5 billion (after making a rich deal with its executives), vote yourselves a “special dividend” of $1 billion, all the while taking no risk. ‘People talk about a wall of money,’ one banker said. Private equity funds didn’t have to raise capital; it was chasing them.”

I am sure, of course, that such unscrupulous and whollly dishonourable practices have never, ever applied to any private equity deal involving our great and wonderful, wise and so superbly well-run chemicals industry that has always taken a long term and measured view of how to run its operations in the most financially-optimal way and for the benefit of humanity as a whole in its caring and compassionate pursuit of higher and principled ideas for a sustainable, warm and cuddly future where everyone sits around the campfire and sings “Well be coming round the mountain” (enough waffle, stop – please!).

As a very wise man once said, everything goes in and out of fashion like long skirts and short skirts.

Hence, my very capable colleague Malini Hariharan has offered some analysis of South Korea. Its companies, having being brutally hammered by the West post Asian Financial Crisis (which I had pointed out at the time ignored their strengths) are now at the front of the proverbial cat walk because they have low levels of debt.

Of course they have significant competitive disadvantages, but they might at least survive the crisis.

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