The term ‘private equity’ (“PE”) is a generic expression for investments in equity securities in companies which are not listed on any public stock exchange. Generally in the UK this means shares in limited companies, although there are exceptions (such as so-called ‘vanity pics’, being public limited companies which are not listed on any investment exchange, but maintain plc status in order that the term ‘plc’ may be used in the corporate name.
PE firm is an investment manager which raises pools of capital, typically in the form of PE fund, to invest. These firms receive a periodic management fee for doing so, as well as the share in the profits known as ‘carried interest’ from each of the PE funds it manages. Depending on the size of fund, they are classified among Upper (>£500m), Mid (£50 – £500m) and Lower (<£50m).
There are different types of PE transactions such as Management buyouts, Management buyins, Leveraged buyouts, Institutional buyouts, Venture Capital, Growth capital, Development capital and Secondary buyouts. The differences between the different investments mentioned is beyond the scope of this piece.
The Business Plan and financial returns
The business plan is a cornerstone requirement for any PE proposition. It is a critical document outlining management’s strategy for business, key milestones (and how these will be achieved), and an assessment of the outlook for the business within its market. PE firms are looking for businesses which satisfied the following criteria, all of which should be addressed by the management team within a robust and well-structured Plan:
a) experience and committed management;
b) good product / services;
c) strong market position
d) high/predictable margins;
e) the potential to double the money within three years (generating an IRR of 25-35%)
f) running yield and the capacity for the payment of arrangement and monitoring fees; and
g) foreseeable exit opportunities.
The preparation of the Business Plan is in many ways a balancing act. On the one hand, it must describe the Target’s business and opportunity accurately and with appropriate prudence; how ever it must also help sell the opportunity accurately and with appropriate funders. Members of the management team may have strength in either of these areas, but only very talented and experienced managers (or well-balanced teams) combine the two effectively.
The facts and opinions expressed in the Business Plan will, by necessity remain those of management. Given the fundamental importance of the Business Plan to the decision of the investors to invest, the management team will required to warrant the content of the Business Plan to the investors in the legal documentation (details outside the scope of this piece).
The standard contents of a Business Plan are as follows: