Our Research Strategy
At IPC, data, research and education improve understanding of the role of private capital in the global economy. An essential first step for generating quality research is access to reliable data. Thus, our top priority is making research-quality data sources widely available to academic researchers.
Access to data on private investments presents challenges, including confidentiality concerns, the proprietary nature of many datasets, and the diffuse nature of private investments. However, we believe that these challenges are best addressed by a deliberate systematic approach through a combined academic effort. In many cases, data owners welcome the benefits derived from confidential analysis of their data by objective academic researchers.
IPC currently focuses on three research areas:
Why Defined Contribution Plans Need Private Investments
We examine the impact of including private investment funds into diversified (e.g., balanced and target date fund) portfolios that otherwise hold only public stocks and bonds. Our analysis utilizes a comprehensive sample of 2,515 U.S. private equity funds to create simulated portfolios for 1987-2017 that invest part of their overall equity allocation in these funds. We find that investing in private funds always increases average portfolio returns and reliably increases Sharpe ratios (return per unit of risk). More
Private Company Valuations by Mutual Funds
Mutual funds that hold private securities value these securities at considerably different prices. Prices vary across fund families, are updated every 2.5 quarters on average and are revised dramatically at follow-on funding events. The infrequent, but dramatic price changes yield predictable fund returns, though we find little evidence of fund investors exploiting this opportunity by buying (selling) before (after) the follow-on funding events. Consistent with fund families opportunistically marking up private securities, we find that funds near the top of league tables increase private valuations more around year-end follow-on funding events than funds ranked lower. More
Valuing Private Equity Investments Strip by Strip
We propose a new valuation method for private equity investments. First, we construct a cash-flow replicating portfolio for the private investment, using cash-flows on various listed equity and fixed income instruments. The second step values the replicating portfolio using a flexible asset pricing model that accurately prices the systematic risk in listed equity and fixed income instruments of different horizons. The method delivers a measure of the risk-adjusted profit earned on a PE investment, a time series for the expected return on PE fund categories, and a time series for the residual net asset value in a fund. We apply the method to real estate, infrastructure, buyout, and venture capital funds, and find modestly positive average risk-adjusted profits with substantial cross-sectional variation, and declining expected returns in the later part of the sample. More
Distorting Private Equity Performance: The Rise of Fund Debt
This paper studies the emergence of debt financing by private equity funds. Using confidential data on U.S. buyout funds, we document the increasing use of subscription lines of credit (SLCs) as an additional source of capital. More
Have Private Equity Returns Really Declined?
In a recent paper, “Demystifying Illiquid Assets – Expected Returns for Private Equity,” Ilmanen, Chandra and McQuinn (of AQR) give a perspective on the past, present, and expected future performance of private equity. They conclude that “private equity does not seem to offer as attractive a net-of-fee return edge over public market counterparts as it did 15-20 years ago from either a historical or forward-looking perspective.” This analysis provides our perspective based on more recent and, we think, more reliable data and performance measures – the historical perspective is more positive than Ilmanen et al. portray. More
Crowded Trades and Tail Risk
A growing body of research examines the implications of common holdings for asset price determination; however, far less is known about the impact of hedge fund ownership concentration on risk and return. Yet, hedge fund positions are an important component of the degree of crowdedness because these investment vehicles tend to be particularly active in their pursuit of out performance, they often take highly concentrated positions, and they utilize leverage and short sales. Using a large database of U.S. equity position-level holdings for hedge funds, we measure the degree of security level crowdedness. More
Commercial Real Estate as an Asset Class
We survey the properties of commercial real estate (CRE) as an asset class. We first illustrate its importance relative to the US economy and to other asset classes. We then discuss CRE ownership patterns over time. While the academic literature has emphasized Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), about two thirds of CRE is owner-occupied. We next study the return properties of CRE indices, indices on particular property types, and discuss what is known about the returns to individual properties. We briefly discuss CRE debt before turning to property derivatives. More
Venture Capital Contracts
We develop a dynamic search and matching model to estimate the impact of venture capital (VC) contract terms on start-up outcomes, and the split of value between entrepreneur and investor, in the presence of endogenous selection. Using a new, large data set of rst nancing rounds of start-up companies, we find an internally optimal equity split between VC and entrepreneur that maximizes the probability of success, consistent with standard double moral hazard theories. However, in virtually all deals, VCs use their bargaining power to receive more equity than is value-maximizing for the start-up. In most cases, participation rights and investor board representation reduce company value, while shifting more value to the investors. More
Can Investors Time Their Exposure to Private Equity?
We find modest gains, at best, to pursuing more realistic, investable strategies that time capital commitments to private equity. There is a high degree of time-series correlation in net cash flows even across commitment strategies that allocate capital in a very different manner over time. More
When Investor Incentives and Consumer Interests Diverge – Private Equity in Higher Education
This paper uses private equity buyouts to study a transition from lower- to higher-powered profit-maximizing incentives in higher education. Relative to closely-held private firms or diffusely-held publicly traded firms, private equity-owned firms have particularly high-powered incentives to maximize profits (Jensen 1989). More