I read an interesting article titled, “Everything About Private Equity Reeks of Bubble. Party On!” It lays out the concerns of private equity’s record fundraising that’s pushed the industry’s dry powder to more than $1 trillion — the most ever — while buyout valuations have risen to concerning levels amid the competition for deals.
David Fann, president and CEO of TorreyCove Capital Partners, called it “a strange environment.” Fann goes on to say that he recently heard from an investment banker in the Midwest that “crappy little companies” are being sold for 12 times cash flow, when they should be valued at seven times. The debt used to finance these deals could spell trouble down the road.
As we recently noted in Term Sheet, the average size of deals is increasing but the amount of deals getting done is down from 2014. “So you quickly come to a situation where the industry is becoming much more competitive for each deal that is done. As a result, the prices are at an all-time high,” Hugh McArthur, head of Bain’s global private equity practice, said in February.
Yet these concerns haven’t stopped private equity firms from racing to investors for more capital. More money continues to flow in from the wealth management industry, sovereign wealth funds are moving in, and let’s not forget the pools of capital from the Middle East.
Global fundraising totaled an unprecedented $453 billion in 2017, topping the previous record, set in 2007, of $414 billion, according to Preqin.
As global investors keep turning to private equity for returns, the heightened competition for deals, and the use of debt to finance them, may bite into — or seriously jeopardize — the gains they’re hoping to reap from the buyout industry.
S&P Global Market Intelligence estimates that buyout debt levels averaged about 5.7 times ebitda in May. That’s up from as low as 3.7 times for deals done in 2009 and not far from a peak of 6.05 times in 2007 — the height of the buyout boom that preceded the financial crisis. The deep recession that followed left many highly leveraged companies in distress as their earnings plummeted.
**So my questions for Term Sheet readers are: Does this perspective support what you’re seeing in the market? If so, is this concerning? And of course, the age-old question: where in the cycle are we?** Email me at email@example.com, and I will compile the most thoughtful responses in an upcoming Term Sheet.
THE LEDGER 40: This year, one list wasn’t enough. The Ledger 40 Under 40 list, compiled by Fortune’s fintech team (including Term Sheet star, Lucinda Shen), shines a light on the pioneers building some of the world’s fastest-growing businesses. They’re innovating around digital payments, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, and blockchains, or distributed accounting ledgers — the tech upon which much of this financial revolution is based.
The list features Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (No. 8), who turned the proceeds from a legal settlement over the origins of Facebook into a billion-dollar Bitcoin investment. Others are less well-known but just as much worth knowing. Jihan Wu (No. 3), cofounded Bitmain, the world’s biggest Bitcoin mining hardware manufacturer. Rachel Mayer (No. 16) leads the investing app for Circle, one of the top U.S. crypto startups — helping cryptocurrency trading go mainstream. And Christine Moy (No. 18) is now the blockchain guru for JPMorgan Chase, America’s largest bank. See the full list here.
IPO HYPE: Ah, Pinterest. The social media company is approaching $1 billion in advertising revenue as it eyes a 2019 IPO, according to CNBC. Pinterest was last valued at $12.3 billion in June 2017, and it’s raised approximately $1.5 billion in funding from investors including Rakuten, Andreessen Horowitz, FirstMark, Goldman Sachs, Fidelity Investments, Bessemer Venture Partners and SV Angel. 2019 is shaping up to be a big year for IPOs.
THE LATEST FROM FORTUNE...
• Is Elon Musk Too Volatile to Run Tesla and SpaceX? (by Leon Vanstone)
• Uber Whistleblower Susan Fowler Rigetti Is Now a Tech Editor at The New York Times (by Polina Marinova)
• How the Gates Foundation Became One of Berkshire Hathaway’s Biggest Shareholders (by Natasha Bach)
• Alphabet Inches Closer to $1 Trillion Market Cap After Strong Earnings at Google (by Kevin Kelleher)
• Stem, Inc., a company focused on artificial intelligence-powered energy storage, raised C$200 million ($152 million) in funding from Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. It raised an additional $26 million in Series D funding from investors including BNP Paribas and Magnesium Capital.
• BlockFi, a New York-based cryptoasset to USD lender, raised $52.5 million in fuding. Galaxy Digital Ventures LLC led the round, and was joined by investors including ConsenSys Ventures and PJC.
• League Inc., a Canada-based digital employee health benefits platform, raised C$62 million ($47 million) in funding. TELUS Ventures and Wittington Ventures co-led the round, and were joined by investors including and existing investors OMERS, Infinite Potential Group, RBC Ventures, Real Ventures and BDC Ventures.
• Cogito, a provider of augmented intelligence, raised $37 million in Series C funding. Goldman Sachs Growth Equity led the round, and was joined by investors including Salesforce Ventures and OpenView.
• DivvyPay, Inc, a Lehi, Utah-based corporate spend management platform, raised $35 million in Series B funding. Insight Venture Partners led the round.
• Volta Charging, a San Francisco-based provider of mobility infrastructure solutions, raised $35 million in Series C funding. Invenergy Future Fund led the round.
• SessionM, a Boston-based customer data and engagement platform, raised $23.8 million in funding. Salesforce Ventures led the round, and was joined by investors including Causeway Media Partners, CRV, General Atlantic, Highland Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
• Xage Security, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based blockchain-protected security platform provider for the industrial internet of things, raised $12 million in Series A funding. March Capital Partners led the round, and was joined by investors including GE Ventures, City Light Capital and NexStar Partners.
• Rethink Brands, a boxed beverage company, raised $6.7 million in funding. AccelFoods led the round.
• Blavity, a San Francisco-based creator of content for black millennials, raised $6.5 million in Series A funding. Investors include Google Ventures, Macro Ventures, Baron Davis, Comcast Ventures and Plexo Capital.
• Beddr, a Mountain View, Calif.-based company focused on helping solve sleep problems, raised $5.6 million in Series A funding. Three Leaf Ventures led the round, and was joined by investors including the Stanford-StartX Fund, Delta Dental Washington Seed Fund and I.T. Farm.
• Agora Images, a Spain-based photo contest app, raised more than 2 million euros ($2.3 million) in funding. Investors include Mnext Venture Capital and WildInvest AG.
• Vegas Stats & Information Network, a Las Vegas, Nev.-based media network dedicated to sports betting information, raised funding of an undisclosed amount. The investor was SeventySix Capital.
HEALTH AND LIFE SCIENCES DEALS
• Click Therapeutics Inc, a New York City-based provider of digital therapeutic solutions as prescription medical treatments, raised $17 million in funding. Sanofi Ventures led the round.
• Bone Biologics, a Burlington, Mass.-based developer of orthobiologic products for domestic and international spine fusion markets, raised $5.9 million in funding. The investors were not named.
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• Galen Partners recapitalized SMP Pharmacy Solutions, a Miami-based service-oriented specialty pharmacy. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• PAI Partners is in exclusive talks to buy Asmodee Group, a Paris-based games publisher. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Galen Partners completed a majority recapitalization of SMP Pharmacy Solutions, a Miami, Fla.-based specialty pharmacy that focuses on niche and complex therapeutic areas such as fertility. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Synovus Financial Corp. (NYSE: SNV)will acquire FCB Financial Holdings, Inc., a Weston, Fla.-based owner of Florida Community Bank, for $2.9 billion.
• Thalheimer Brothers, a portfolio company of Audax Private Equity, acquired Mega Metals, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based provider of titanium recycling services. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• KPS Capital agreed to sell Expera Specialty Solutions LLC, a Kaukauna, Wisc.-based maker of specialty paper products, to Ahlstrom-Munksjö Oyj for $615 million.
• AURELIUS Alpha Limited, a subsidiary of AURELIUS Equity Opportunities SE & Co. KGaA acquired Ideal Shopping Direct, a U.K.-based multi-channel home shopping retailer, from Blackstone. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Evergreen Pacific Partners sold Abracon, LLC, an Irvine, Calif.-based manufacturer of frequency control, signal conditioning, clock distribution, and magnetic components, to The Riverside Company.
FIRMS + FUNDS
• Soundcore Capital Partners, a New York-based private equity firm, raised $350 million for its first institutional fund.
• Periscope Equity LLC, a Chicago-based private equity firm, raised more than $104 million for its first institutional fund, Periscope Equity I, L.P.
• Long Hill Capital, a China-based venture firm, raised $265 million for its second fund.
• David Brent joined Altas Partners as a partner.