Carlyle going public? Nothing to see here

December 7, 2010, 8:02 PM UTC

Last week’s overblown business story was about how Steve Schwarzman was temporarily moving to Europe (the guy is on the road over 200 days a year and owns a home in France… this is not any sort of national defection). Yesterday’s was about how AOL was “actively exploring” a merger with Yahoo, even though it hadn’t yet bothered to discuss the matter with anyone at Yahoo (YHOO).

And now we have this Bloomberg item about how The Carlyle Group is planning an IPO. Excuse me while I yawn.

The big get here is that Carlyle co-founder Bill Conway said of a possible listing: “There will be significant advantage to having a lot more capital… Investors are reducing commitments to funds and making economic terms much less attractive.”

Bloomberg also cites two anonymous sources as saying that a filing would come late next year, with pricing most likely to occur in 2012.

Four points:

  1. There is nothing new here. Carlyle has been bandying about the idea of an IPO for years. Not just privately, but publicly. Here’s David Rubenstein speaking to the Washington Post more than three years ago: “It’s fair to say that Carlyle . . . would be thought to be a natural candidate to go public… We don’t have our heads in the sand and we’re not ignoring what’s going on with Blackstone or Fortress or others.”
  2. Saying that Carlyle plans to file in late 2011 and go public in 2012 is kind of like telling people that you plan to go on a diet sometime next summer. Intent is one thing. Follow-through is another.
  3. Does Conway know that fund economics will still be “much less attractive” in late 2011? Of course not. If GP/LP dynamics shift back to GPs (as they typically do), does that mean no IPO? Also, would Carlyle really use IPO proceeds for future investments? If so, it would be a different strategy than most other PE firms, which have used proceeds for liquidity, hiring incentives and/or expansion capital (buying other investment groups, etc).
  4. Carlyle’s decision will almost certainly be influenced by the IPO performance of Apollo Management, which is next in line. And don’t be surprised if TPG Capital, not Carlyle, is next in queue.

To be clear: I expect that Carlyle will go public someday. Maybe in 2011 or 2012. But the idea that a calendar has been drawn up seems specious.