Visualizing the Ballooning Valuations In Private Equity Deals
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The Ballooning Valuations In Private Equity Deals

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ballooning valuations in private equity deals

The Briefing

  • Private equity (PE) deal valuations by EV/EBITDA are increasingly rich and are hitting higher double-digit figures
  • 2021 is expected to be another home run year for PE, with 20% of buyouts estimated to be priced above 20x EV/EBITDA

The Ballooning Valuations In Private Equity Deals

Private equity is getting increasingly expensive. As a result, the pricing of an average deal today, by the EV/EBITDA metric, is expected to be at a premium relative to the last decade.

The EV/EBIDTA ratio breaks down into two parts:

  • Enterprise Value (EV): Adding debt to market capitalization, while subtracting cash gives us the enterprise value. This gives us the total value of a company.
  • EBITDA: Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization or, EBITDA, provides a popular way to look at earnings. By removing these expenses, we obtain a clearer look at operating performance.

Overall, EV/EBITDA shows the relationship between a company’s total value and its earnings, and is often seen as the price-to-earnings ratio’s sophisticated sibling, used to view companies the way acquirers would.

However, the EV component is not necessarily intuitive, so let’s expand a little on it:

Why is Debt Added Back to Enterprise Value?

To acquire a company completely, one must pay out all stakeholders in order to reach the final cost of the acquisition. This includes the stock (equity holders) and the debt holders, subsequently, adding back the market value debt to market cap does just this.

Why is Cash Subtracted from Enterprise Value?

Subtracting cash can also be seen as arriving at net debt. That is, the remaining debt after using the cash and equivalents on a company’s balance sheet to pay it down. In other words, if cash exceeds debt, enterprise value shrinks, and the cost of acquiring the company becomes cheaper. Whereas if debt exceeds cash, the acquirer would have to pay off more debt holders, thus making the acquisition more expensive.

What’s Driving Higher Valuations in Private Equity?

1. The Link Between All Equities

First, the public markets are often used as a starting point to derive valuations for deals. Generally, companies with similar business models and operations should be assigned similar valuation multiples. For instance, Lowes and Home Depot, or alternatively, Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Therefore, a company under consideration in private equity often has peers trading publicly.

Furthermore, the average multiple assigned to businesses in the stock market fluctuates through peaks and troughs. Today, they’re trading at a premium to historic averages, a result of a rallying prices and elevated investor risk appetite. Naturally, these public valuations spills over into the private equity space.

2. A World of Cheap Money

Second, asset markets move based on relativity and opportunity cost. A low interest rate environment pairing with the trillions in money printing is placing debt securities at unattractive levels. Hence, low rates of return on debt is resulting in money moving elsewhere.

For private equity though, debt is considered fuel. And in this industry firms use high levels of leverage to acquire companies. For this reason, low rates and cheap debt are a private equity manager’s dream.

But what’s true for one private equity firm can be true for all. Because access to cheap debt means more money chasing deals, and this heightened level of competition is reflecting in the higher multiples and expensive deals today.

Where does this data come from?

Source: PitchBook
Notes: Data is as of November, 2020

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Seeing Red: Is the Heydey of Pandemic Stocks Over?

Worries over post-COVID demand and rising interest rates have fueled a market selloff, with pandemic stocks hit particularly hard.

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The Briefing

  • Global equities are in a downward spiral, and experienced their worst week in more than a year.
  • Worries about slowing post-COVID demand and rising rates fueled the selloff.
  • Pandemic stocks were some of the hardest hit, with Shopify and Netflix dropping 35.3% and 33.5% respectively.

Seeing Red: Is the Heydey of Pandemic Stocks Over?

The stock market, and the stocks that flourished during the COVID-19 pandemic in particular, are off to a rough start in 2022. If you’ve been watching your investment accounts, chances are you’ve been seeing a lot of red. Shaken by the uncertainty of a pandemic recovery and future interest rate hikes, investors have been selling off their stocks.

This market selloff—which occurs when investors sell a large volume of securities in a short period of time, leading to a rapid decline in price—has investors concerned. In fact, search interest for the term “selloff” recently reached peak interest of 100.

2022 market selloff

Which stocks were the hardest hit, and how much are their prices down so far this year?

The Lackluster Returns of Pandemic Stocks

Pandemic stocks and tech-centric companies have suffered the most. Here’s a closer look at the year-to-date price returns for select stocks.

CompanyYear-to-Date Price Return
Shopify-35.3%
Roblox-30.2%
Block-28.0%
Moderna-31.9%
Zoom-19.9%
Netflix-33.5%
Snapchat-31.1%
Peloton-23.1%
Coinbase-23.5%
DocuSign-26.0%
Amazon-16.3%
Robinhood-29.6%

Price returns are in U.S. dollars based on data from January 3, 2022 to January 21, 2022.

Netflix fueled the selloff after it reported disappointing subscriber growth. The company added 8.28 million subscribers in the fourth quarter, which is less than the 8.5 million it added in the fourth quarter of 2020. It also projects to have slower year-over-year subscriber growth in the near term, citing competition from other streaming companies.

Meanwhile, Coinbase stock lost nearly a quarter of its value so far this year. As the price of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have plummeted, investors worry Coinbase will see lower trading volume and therefore lower fees.

The contagion also spread to other pandemic stocks, such as Zoom and DocuSign, as investors began to doubt the staying power of stay-at-home stocks.

Following the Herd

While investor exuberance drove many of these stocks up last year, 2022 is beginning to paint a different picture.

Investors are worried that rising rates will negatively impact high-growth stocks, because it means it’s more expensive to borrow money. Not only that, but they also may see Netflix’s growth as harbinger of things to come for other pandemic stocks.

The psychology of the market cycle also plays a role—amid these fears, investors have adopted a herd mentality and begun selling their shares in droves.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Google Finance

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How People Around the World Feel About Their Economic Prospects

In many of the world’s largest economies, including the U.S., Germany, and China, optimism around economic prospects sits at an all-time low.

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The Briefing

  • Economic prospects are at an all-time low in nine countries, including the U.S., Canada, Germany, Japan, and China
  • China and the U.S. experienced the biggest year-over-year drops, at -8 p.p. and -6 p.p., respectively

How Countries Feel About Their Economic Prospects

Each year, the Edelman Trust Barometer report helps gauge the level of trust people place in various systems of power.

The report is also a useful tool to gauge the general mood in countries around the world—and when it comes to how people in developed economies feel about the near future, there’s a very clear answer: pessimistic. In fact, optimism about respondents’ economic prospects fell in the majority of countries surveyed.

Here’s a full look how many respondents in 28 countries feel they and their families will be doing better over the next five years. Or, put more simply, what percentage of people are optimistic about their economic circumstances?

Country% who are optimisticAll-time low?Change from 2021 (p.p.)
🇯🇵 Japan15%-1
🇫🇷 France18%-1
🇩🇪 Germany22%-2
🇮🇹 Italy27%0
🇳🇱 Netherlands29%-1
🇬🇧 UK30%+2
🇷🇺 Russia31%+1
🇨🇦 Canada34%-1
🇪🇸 Spain36%+1
🇰🇷 South Korea39%+6
🇺🇸 U.S.40%-6
🇦🇺 Australia41%-2
🇮🇪 Ireland42%-1
🇸🇬 Singapore43%-1
🌐 Global51%0
🇲🇾 Malaysia55%0
🇦🇷 Argentina60%-2
🇹🇭 Thailand60%-2
🇨🇳 China64%-8
🇿🇦 South Africa66%-2
🇲🇽 Mexico68%-1
🇧🇷 Brazil73%0
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia73%0
🇦🇪 UAE78%+6
🇮🇳 India80%0
🇮🇩 Indonesia81%+11
🇨🇴 Colombia83%-1
🇳🇬 Nigeria87%n/a
🇰🇪 Kenya91%-2

Interestingly, nine countries (those with checkmarks above) are polling at all-time lows for economic optimism in survey history.

Whose Glass is Half Empty?

Japanese respondents were the most pessimistic, with only 15% seeing positive economic prospects in the near term. Only 18% of French respondents were economically optimistic.

While most developed economies were slightly more optimistic than Japan and France, all are still well below the global average.

As tensions between China and the U.S. continue to heat up in 2022, there is one thing that can unite citizens in the two countries—a general feeling that economic prospects are souring. As the U.S. heads into midterm elections and China’s 20th National Party Congress takes place, leaders in both countries will surely have the economy on their minds.

Whose Glass is Half Full?

Of course, the mood isn’t all doom and gloom everywhere. The United Arab Emirates saw a 6 percentage point (p.p.) jump in their population’s economic prospects.

Indonesia saw an 11 p.p. increase, and in big developing economies like Brazil and India, the general level of optimism is still quite high.

In some ways, it’s no surprise that people in developing economies are more optimistic about their economic prospects. Living standards are generally rising in many of these countries, and more opportunities open up as the economy grows. Even in the most pessimistic African country surveyed, South Africa, the majority of people still see improving circumstances in their near future. In Kenya and Nigeria, an overwhelming majority are optimistic.

Diverging Outcomes

One major prediction that experts agreed on for the year ahead is that economic outcomes will begin to diverge between countries with differing levels of vaccine access.

While this doesn’t seem to have affected attitudes towards economic optimism yet, it remains to be seen how this will play out as the year progresses.

Where does this data come from?

Source: 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer

Data notes: This data is derived from Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer survey, which includes 30,000+ respondents in countries around the world.

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