Private equity market in 2018 saw toughest year for exits in a decade: Bain report

SINGAPORE - Private equity in South-east Asia faced its toughest year for exits in a decade last year, with weak market conditions dampening the appetite for initial public offerings (IPOs) and trade deals.

Private equity firms traditionally have three options when exiting an investment: a corporate acquisition, an IPO or a secondary deal, such as selling a company to another private equity firm.

But both volume and aggregate value of exits took a dive last year, according to a report released by global management consultancy Bain & Company. Exit count fell 59 per cent from 2017 and 52 per cent from the five-year average, while exit value fell 72 per cent from the year before to US$5 billion and 48 per cent from the five-year average.

The numbers were largely dragged down by a slump in big ticket exits - the value of exits worth more than US$1 billion comprised 44 per cent of total exit value for 2018, compared with 71 per cent the year before.

"The equity markets underwent some turmoil and IPOs became a challenging exit as well," Usman Akhtar, partner at Bain, told BT. South-east Asia saw no public listings in 2018.

"And also with the overall general nervousness that was around in 2018 on the macroeconomy, it also meant that there were fewer trade sales. So fewer corporates wanted to buy out and buy assets, they were just more nervous about doing deals."

Trade exits continued to lead the exit market in 2018, comprising 68 per cent of exit value.