Mar 25, 2008

Jeremy Grantham on private equity

Q: I understand you are most concerned with further fallout in the private-equity arena?

A: Yes. I have yet to meet a private-equity firm that put into its spreadsheet the assumption that system-wide profit margins could decline by 20% to 30%. They have taken the current, abnormally high profit margins as a given and then determined to improve them by, let's say, 15% and assume everything works out pretty well.

But if the base declines by 20%, even if they end up improving margins by 15%, they are going backwards. And if they pay the 25% premium up front, which was normal, and if they leverage 4-to-1, which was normal, then they almost precisely wipe out all of the clients' money, all of the 20% in equity and if, perish the thought, they don't add 15%, but add perhaps zero to 5%, then they do more than wipe out the equity, they leave the underlying debt in ragged disarray. That is the next shoe to drop on the credit side.

~ Jeremy Grantham, "This Credit Crisis Has a Long Way to Run," Barron's, February 11, 2008

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