Asian LP relations with GPs in flux: Coller survey

Coller Capital’s survey of limited partners suggests they're making exits from private equity funds of funds in favour of broader investing among single fund managers.

The world of LP/GP relations is about to go into flux, if the results of a new survey by $8 billion secondary private equity specialist Coller Capital prove accurate.

Coller’s survey of 120 global limited partners (LPs), of which 17% are based in Asia-Pacific, finds investors remain keen on private equity, with 34% of LPs intending to increase their asset allocation to the sector and only 16% planning to reduce it. This is less bullish than in 2007 and 2008, but represents an improved confidence in private equity from 2009.

This growth is likely to be strongest in Asia-Pacific, where 71% of LPs say they expect to be joined by a ‘significant’ number of first-time institutional investors in PE over the next three years.

But this must be contrasted with a high number of existing Asia-Pacific LPs declining general partners’ requests for additional allocations to existing funds. Coller finds 70% of Asian LPs have declined such requests over the past year.

Meanwhile, most LPs say they will add new GP relationships over the next two or three years. This is true worldwide, in Asia most likely because of the immature nature of most portfolios.

These findings together suggest LPs are keen on PE, but are not looking to give their existing GPs additional money. They are looking to add new names to their roster, and expect to see many more of their peers do the same.

This may explain why Coller also finds that 67% of LPs worldwide believe it is too easy for ‘weak’ GPs to raise funds in the Asia-Pacific region. Investor appetite is so great in Asia, it is allowing for mediocrity.

In Asia-Pacific, funds of private equity funds are far more common than in America and Europe. Coller finds that 75% of Asian LPs invest in funds of funds. This makes sense, given that most Asian LPs are newcomers to private equity, and funds of funds provide immediate diversification.

All of this flux means, however, that funds of funds are the most vulnerable. A large minority of FoF investors worldwide – 27% of Asia-Pacific LPs, and more in Europe and the US – say they plan a net reduction in exposure. Major reasons for this include cost, disappointing returns and LPs’ improved ability to select and monitor GPs directly.

Taken together, the survey seems to suggest that, globally, the biggest opportunity for GPs to raise new capital is among mid-sized buyout firms, and not necessarily those of the highest calibre – in that they could market themselves as ‘different’ to Asia-Pacific LPs looking to expand beyond their funds of PE funds.

Coller’s survey includes LPs of all sizes, from under $500 million to over $500 billion in capital, among banks, asset managers, public and corporate pension funds, endowments, insurers, government agencies, family offices and corporations.

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