Private Equity On The War Path Again
Those private equity so-and-sos are back again. Luke Collins kindly points out an article in the New York Times which says the PE companies have amassed $500 billion with which they wish to wreak their particular brand of misery on unfortunate companies.
The PE people are companies like Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts (KKR) and Blackstone which bought up NXP and Freescale in 2006 and since then have loaded them up with massive debt, sacked thousands of people, downsized the businesses hugely and still cannot manage them for profit and growth.
There was a time when the PE people used to claim that they had superior management expertise that allowed them to run companies more efficiently than other people.
That time has long gone. The wreckage which KKR and Blackstone have engineered at two once-great semiconductor companies shows the PE people haven’t got a clue.
The problem is, says the New York Times, that these PE companies have to invest their cash quickly – or give it back to their investors.
As the PE people don’t want to give it back, so they’re investing like crazy and consequently bidding up asset values.
This is the scenario which scuppered poor NXP and Blackstone. NXP was valued by KKR at $11 billion and Freescale was valued by Blackstone at $17.6 billion.
The problem of these high valuations is that they then meant huge levels of debt were loaded onto the companies – $6 billion at NXP and $10 billion at Freescale which make it very difficult for those companies to make profits and invest for growth.
Buying companies at inflated prices not only hurts the acquired companies but reduces the profits obtainable for investors – so everyone suffers except the PE companies which extract large fees for their involvement.
The EU is bringing legislation to make sure the PE people can’t cause too much damage to European companies.
These laws can’t be passed quickly enough.