Aussies Give Private Equity a Thumbs-Up

Australia ostensibly answers the question raised during the Romney campaign as to whether private equity creates value in an economy. Between 2007 and 2011, PE portfolio companies in Australia generated more total revenue ($63.5 billion) than Australia’s coal-mining and insurance industries and accounted for more jobs (512,000 FTEs) than its automotive and banking industries, according to a recent survey conducted by Deloitte Access Economics of Australia. During that same period, PE-backed companies lowered their average debt-to-asset ratios to the same level as publicly-listed Australian companies and achieved higher average returns on assets. The 346 PE portfolio companies covered by the survey were clustered in manufacturing, retail trade, communications and healthcare; they were underrepresented in primary industries and construction (which require longer lead times to turn around). The surveyed entities had an average annual turnover of $195 million, produced $34 million in EBITDA and paid $42 million in wages to 827 (FTE) employees. About 70% of the companies included in the survey were either totally or majority-controlled by PE funds and 90% had undergone management changes after being privatized. The average PE investment lasted for about four years. The survey was commissioned by The Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association Limited and covered 70% of the PE funds under management in Australia.