Near Record Pace of Private Equity Fund-Raising Hit Wall in September

Fund-raising by private equity firms slowed dramatically during the last three months of 2008, so much so, in fact, that an analysis shows an 18 percent overall decline among fund-raising by U.S. firms compared to 2007—all of it due to the Q4 meltdown.

An analysis published today in the Dow Jones Private Equity Analyst newsletter found that 99 funds raised about $43 billion during the fourth quarter, a roughly 57 percent decline from the nearly $100 billion raised by 208 funds during the same period in 2007.

Fund-raising by private equity firms in 2008 had been running at a pace slightly ahead of the industry record set in 2007 until the fourth quarter—when fund-raising by private equity firms slowed to a virtual standstill. Based on statistics from the LP Source database, the analysis found that 363 U.S.-based private equity funds raised $265.6 billion in 2008—18 percent below the $325.8 billion raised by 506 funds in 2007. The analysis focused on private capital invested with venture capital firms, buyout and corporate finance funds, mezzanine funds, and secondary funds, also known as funds of funds. No hedge funds were included.

“While 2008 was still easily the second-best year on record, the decline we saw in the most recent quarter may steepen in the coming months,” newsletter managing editor Jennifer Rossa said in a statement. The economic crisis triggered by the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in early September hit the buyout industry particularly hard, as fund-raising declined 26 percent to $181 billion raised among 143 buyout funds—a level comparable to 2006. At the nine-month mark, the buyout sector was down just 3 percent compared to 2007.

Overall venture capital fund-raising, which was up about 4 percent at the nine-month mark, fell by 25 percent for the year in 2008, with $24.7 billion raised across 150 funds nationwide. It was the lowest fund-raising total for the venture industry since 2004.

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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