Strong Buyout Fund Returns Drive Private Equity Stocks Higher

Private equity

Over the past decade, as private equity firms like Blackstone, KKR and Carlyle Group have grown into a gargantuan size and raised buyout funds nearing or eclipsing $20 billion, one critique of their cash gusher was that it would inevitably drive fund returns lower. Now, as the U.S. economy emerges from the Coronavirus pandemic and markets soar to new record highs, recent earning results from America’s big buyout firms reveal a trend of rising returns even as funds surged in size.

Fueled by piping-hot financial markets, returns from the flagship private equity funds of Blackstone, KKR and Carlyle are on the rise. Mega funds from these firms that recently ended their investment period are all running ahead of their prior vintages and raise the prospect that PE firms can achieve net investment return rates nearing or exceeding 20%.

Carlyle, which reported first quarter earnings on Thursday morning, is the newest firm to exhibit rising performance. Its $13 billion North American buyout fund, Carlyle Partners VI, which was launched in 2014 and ended its investment period in 2018, is now being marked at a 21% gross investment rate of return and a net return of 16%, or a 2.2-times multiple on invested capital.

The fund has realized $8.8 billion of investments, like insurance brokerage PIB Group and consultancy PA Consulting, and sits on a portfolio marked at nearly $20 billion. The returns are two-to-three percentage points ahead of Carlyle Partners V, the flagship buyout fund it raised just before the financial crisis. That fund is on track to earn a net IRR of of 14%, or a multiple of 2.1-times its invested capital.

Rising fund profitability, even at scale, is helping to fuel Carlyle’s overall profitability. Net accrued performance fees from Carlyle VI ended the quarter at nearly $1.4 billion and Carlyle sits on a record $3.2 billion in such performance fees that will likely be fully realized in 2021. The firm’s once-lagging stock has recently risen to new record highs.

The trend is even more clear at Blackstone and KKR, which have both used spongy IPO markets to realize multi-billion dollar investment windfalls in recent months.

Blackstone’s flagship $18 billion private equity fund, Blackstone Capital Partners VII, was closed in May 2016 and ended its investment period in February 2020, just before the Covid-19 economic meltdown. After taking public or exiting investments like Bumble, Paysafe and Refinitiv, this fund is now marked at a 18% net investment rate of return, five percentage points better than its prior fund, which raised in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis.

In the past two quarters, the fund has been the single biggest driver of Blackstone’s record profitability, generating over $1.6 billion in combined accrued performance fees. In the first quarter, the fund was responsible for 82-cents in quarterly per-share profits, filings show. Overall, Blackstone sits on a record $5.2 billion in net accrued performance fees.

At KKR, it’s a similar story. The firm’s $8.8 billion Americas XI fund, which was raised in 2012 and ended its investment period in 2017, is generating net IRRs of 18.5%, or a 2.2-times multiple on invested capital, according to the its annual 10-k filing from February. That sets up the fund to be KKR’s most profitable buyout fund since the 1990s.

KKR’s first quarter results, set to be released in early May, may show even bigger windfalls and higher returns. Its recent public offering of Applovin looks to be one of the greatest windfalls in the firm’s history, bolstering returns and profits for its even newer $13.5 billion Americas Fund XII. Asia could also be an area of big returns as its $9 billion Asian Fund III monetizes investments.

As returns rise, PE firms have seen their stocks soar to new record highs.

Once a laggard, Carlyle is up 36% year-to-date to a new record high above $42, according to Morningstar data. The firm, now led by chief executive Kewsong Lee, has returned an annual average of 23% over the past five-years.

KKR has done even better, rising 40% this year alone and 125% over the past 12-months. It’s five and ten-year total stock returns are now 33% and 13.5%, respectively.

The top performer in the industry is Blackstone Group, which recently eclipsed a $100 billion market value. Up 39% this year alone, Blackstone’s generated an average annualized total return of nearly 19% over the past decade, which is about five-percentage-points better annually than the S&P 500 Index.

Bottom Line: With public markets hitting new record highs, buyout firms are reporting LBO returns not seen since the 1990s. Their stocks, which once badly lagged the S&P 500, are beginning to beat the market.

I’m a staff writer and associate editor at Forbes, where I cover finance and investing. My beat includes hedge funds, private equity, fintech, mutual funds, mergers, and banks. I’m a graduate of Middlebury College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and I’ve worked at TheStreet and Businessweek. Before becoming a financial scribe, I was a member of the fateful 2008 analyst class at Lehman Brothers. Email thoughts and tips to agara@forbes.com. Follow me on Twitter at @antoinegara

Source: Strong Buyout Fund Returns Drive Private Equity Stocks Higher

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Stocks Fall Again As Experts Worry About ‘Extremely Bullish’ Market Indicators

After closing at record highs last week, stocks are falling for the second day in a row as corporate earnings—which lifted the market to new highs during the pandemic—start to show signs of weakness, all while speculative pockets of investor mania continue to rage on.

Shortly after the open, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 147 points, or 0.4%, while the S&P 500 also slipped 0.4%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq, which underperformed Monday, shed 0.3%.

Far outperforming any other stock in the S&P, shares of railroad company Kansas City Southern are soaring 15% after Canada National proposed to acquire the company in a $33.7 billion deal—topping Canadian Pacific’s $25 billion bid from last month and setting the stage for a potential bidding war.

Heading up the S&P’s losses, Marlboro parent Altria Group’s stock is slumping 6% after reports that Joe Biden’s administration (which has not commented on the matter) is considering a reduction in the amount of nicotine allowed in tobacco products.

On the earnings front, shares of IBM are climbing 2.5% after the software giant surpassed first-quarter expectations with revenue of $5.4 billion—bolstered by ongoing growth in its enterprise cloud business—and adjusted earnings of $2.2 billion.

Meanwhile, medical device company Abbott, which makes Covid-19 test kits, reported worse-than-expected revenue of $10.5 billion Tuesday morning as Covid-related sales fell nearly 10% quarter to quarter, sending shares down about 3%.

Reflecting ongoing uncertainty over the economic recovery, epicenter stocks—or those belonging to companies hard-hit by the pandemic—are also driving losses Tuesday, with chemicals firms Dupont De Nemours, cruise-liner Carnival Corp. and Delta Air Lines all falling about 2%.

Crucial Quote

“The reopening news is directionally positive, but the big problem is that many epicenter stocks have already seen their enterprise values return to pre-Covid levels, while some are well beyond where they stood in 2019,” Vital Knowledge Media Founder Adam Crisafulli said in a Tuesday morning note.

Tangent

In a break from tradition, the Bank of Japan revealed Tuesday that it opted out of buying exchange-traded funds despite weakness in Japanese stocks. Crisafulli says the move is “perhaps the most important piece of news today” because it signals the central bank is dialing back its economic support—at a time when central banks around the world, including the Federal Reserve, have revved up their accommodative policy to help the economy and usher in new stock-market highs. Japan’s Nikkei 225, the nation’s benchmark index, fell 2% Tuesday and is now down 4.5% from a February high.

Key Background

Boosted by massive fiscal stimulus, an accelerating vaccine rollout and falling unemployment, stocks have had a strong start to the year, with the S&P pulling off 23 new all-time highs in 2021, according to LPL Financial Chief Market Strategist Ryan Detrick. “Many of our favorite sentiment gauges are becoming extremely bullish, which could be a near-term contrarian warning,” Detrick says of indicators like sentiment, at a three-year high, and low cash allocations from portfolio managers increasingly piling into stocks.

Surprising Fact

The price of dogecoin is soaring Tuesday, climbing back near record territory from last week, as retail traders around the world stage a rally around cannabis holiday 4/20. The cryptocurrency, modeled after a meme and originally developed as a joke, has climbed eight-fold over the past month, nabbing a staggering $49 billion market capitalization.

Further Reading

S&P And Dow Score New Record Highs, For The Week: Health Care, Materials And Utilities Sectors Lead Gains (Forbes)

Peloton Shares Drop After It Resists Regulator Warnings About Treadmill Following Child’s Death  (Forbes)

I’m a reporter at Forbes focusing on markets and finance. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I double-majored in business journalism and economics while working for UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School as a marketing and communications assistant. Before Forbes, I spent a summer reporting on the L.A. private sector for Los Angeles Business Journal and wrote about publicly traded North Carolina companies for NC Business News Wire. Reach out at jponciano@forbes.com.

Source: Stocks Fall Again As Experts Worry About ‘Extremely Bullish’ Market Indicators

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Kansas City Southern’s stock soars after Canadian National’s ‘superior’ bid valued at $33.7 bln

 

 

Sleep Deprived Financial Traders Make Lower Stock Market Returns

Do financial traders make better returns in the stock market when they are well rested? You would intuitively assume that a trader’s level of sleep would affect their decision making.

Several studies have certainly shown that sleep affects the ability of people to make decisions in general. Though admittedly based on small samples of participants, these studies show that those who are short on sleep tend to have relatively low attention to detail, poor memory, poor performance and significant mood swings.

But when it comes to whether sleep affects financial decisions, the evidence has been mixed. The only measure of sleepiness that has been used is the annual clock changes for daylight saving that take place in many countries, since they disturb many people’s sleep. A few studies have used this to look at how stock market returns are affected on the Mondays directly after the clocks go back or forward by an hour.

One such study in 2000 concluded that returns were relatively low when traders lacked sleep, and suggested that the lack of sleep might make them more risk-averse because they were anxious and struggling to concentrate. But later studies, such as this one from 2002, suggested that the correlation between sleep and cautious investing might not be as strong empirically as initially thought.

My work

Daylight-saving time changes have the advantage that we all have to adjust them, but they are far from an ideal proxy for sleep since they only occur twice a year, and the impact on people’s sleep is relatively small since the clock only changes by an hour. This might explain why the research evidence has been mixed in this area.

To try and improve our understanding in this area, I undertook a pilot study of a fund manager in England, analysing his investment transactions in the context of sleep data that he recorded in a diary.

I found that his sleep patterns did indeed influence his investment decisions. In line with the theory from the 2000 study, the fund manager made fewer transactions when he was short on sleep.

To see whether there was a wider correlation, I sought to develop a new proxy for sleep. We know that around 80% of people search for information online about their health issues, and there is no reason to believe that investors behave any differently. I also knew that Google data has been used by researchers to measure investor attention to individual stocks.

I therefore created a sleepiness index based on the extent to which people in the US were searching Google for 28 relevant terms including “sleep deprivation”, “sleeping pills” and “jet lag cure”. Some of these terms came from allowing the Google algorithm to offer up potential sleepiness terms based on suggested autocompletes.

The more that people searched for things to do with sleepiness, the greater the indication of sleep difficulties. Unlike the time changes from daylight saving, my index has the advantage of being based on daily data, and can measure a much wider range of sleepiness. To test its validity, I checked the index against times that we would normally associate with sleepiness, including daylight-saving time changes and also sunrises and sunsets. Sure enough, sleepiness-related Google searches increase at these times.

The index confirmed that stock-market returns are indeed quite low on days that traders are short on sleep. For every 1% daily increase in sleep difficulties across the population, stock-market returns fell by 0.14%. I also found that these patterns reversed on subsequent days, which may mean that traders realise that their initial decisions were poor and take steps to correct them.

What next from a research point of view? Researchers could potentially use the data from sleep apps to get more accurate measures of the relationship between stock market returns and the population’s sleepiness over time. No doubt the better we understand this, the more that traders will be able to use it to their advantage.

My work is another example of how online search data can shed new light on old research subjects. There are surely lots of other ways in which the academic community can use it to understand other factors that influence our decisions.

By: Antonios Siganos  Senior Lecturer in Finance, University of Glasgow

Source: Sleep-deprived financial traders make lower stock market returns – new research

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An Investment in Hershey’s Stock Looks Sweeter Than Ever

Hershey’s (NYSE:HSYbecame an attractive investment last year when the COVID-driven sell-off resulted in ultra-low prices for this consumer staple. The company was not only well-positioned to weather the storm internal efforts to reposition the portfolio for longer-term sustainable growth were beginning to pay off. Over the past year, the company has finalized three major divestitures that have it in leaner shape, with a healthier balance sheet, and accelerating business.

Hershey’s, A Triple-Dip Of Good News

Hershey’s reported a very solid quarter despite headwinds related to divestitures and FX. Divestitures and FX resulted in a 0.2% and 0.4% headwind to the topline results with the takeaway being these headwinds are largely behind the company. That said, the $2.19 in reported consolidated revenue is 5.8% higher than last year and beat the consensus by 330 basis points. The gains were made on a 6.3% increase in organic sales due to a 5.75% increase in volume and a 0.6% increase in pricing. The U.S. segment was strongest with a bain of 9.06% while International saw its sales fall 13.1%.

Moving down the report, the company’s volume increase and internal efforts resulted in a significant increase in both the growth and operating margins. At the operating level, the GAAP margin increased by 470 basis points to 18.5% while the adjusted margin widened 170 basis points to 19.6% and both ahead of the consensus. The increase in revenue and margin resulted in earnings leverage and adjusted EPS of $1.49 or $0.06 better than expected.

“We delivered a strong quarter with continued share gains and volume growth to finish the year.   While the impact of key external factors on our business remains uncertain, we have good momentum going into 2021 with visibility into a strong start to the year.  We anticipate we will deliver another year of balanced sales and earnings growth in 2021,” said Michele Buck, The Hershey Company President, and Chief Executive Officer.

If the first dip of good news is the earnings beat, and the second the company’s increasing margins and earnings leverage, the third is the guidance. The company was among the first to reinstate guidance at the end of the calendar 3rd quarter 2020 and it has upped that guidance now. The company’s new projection has F2021 revenue growth in the range of 2-4% versus the previously expected 2.0% and a more robust 6-8% increase in EPS versus the $4.54 previously announced.

Hershey’s Dividend Is The Sprinkles On Top

If accelerating business, improving profitability, and earnings leverage aren’t enough to get you interested in Hershy there is also the dividend to consider. The company pays about 2.2% in yield with shares near $147 and there is a high expectation of future distribution increases. The company is paying about 48% of its earnings but that is based on a consensus figure well-below current guidance. The company’s earnings picture is backed up by a very healthy balance sheet as well, one that carries a moderate amount of cash and debt has good coverage and ample FCF. If the company follows true to form the next increase will come in later summer and could be worth as much as 10% of the current payout.

The Technical Outlook: Hershey’s Is Struggling With Resistance

Shares of Hershey’s popped on the news but resistance at the short-term moving average threatens to keep price action range-bound or moving lower. If price action cannot get above the 30 EMA a retest of the $144 level or lower becomes the most likely scenario. If, however, the bulls can rally and get above the EMA a move up to $152 or $153 looks probable.

By: Thomas Hughes

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SPACs Are A New Part Of The Same Market Story

The most unique feature of the modern market is how fast everything happens. As we wrote back in November, the 2020 stock market essentially plotted the entire seven-year journey investors endured around the financial crisis in just seven months.

And as markets have moved to more quickly and efficiently discount all future outcomes, a series of mini-bubbles have become a defining feature of market today. And it appears SPACs (Special Purpose Acquisition Company) are taking their seat at the table.

George Livadas, portfolio manager at Upslope Capital Management, wrote cautiously about the SPAC space in his fourth quarter investor letter published Wednesday. “In recent years we’ve seen a number of mini-bubbles come and go rapidly (pot stocks, short vol, blockchain, etc),” Livadas writes.

“We’ve also seen what looks like a general speeding up of broader market regimes (flash bear markets of late 2018 and early 2020). For the SPAC bubble to be exempt from this phenomenon, one must assume that SPACs really are a better, lasting mousetrap vs. traditional IPOs. This seems highly unlikely.”

Livadas also cites impending lock-up expirations and the first full run of detailed quarterly results from many companies taken public by SPAC sponsors as risks for the space. Livadas disclosed that as of the end of the fourth quarter, Upslope was short 11 SPACs and two electric vehicle stocks, all as-yet unnamed.

But even the discussion of SPACs as a sector or asset class unto itself proves the enthusiasm has gone too far. SPACs are, after all, just a financing scheme, an alternate route for companies to go public that requires fewer disclosures than a traditional IPO or direct listing process. In exchange for this easier process, the company being taken public offers a bigger part of itself for sale to the SPAC sponsor.

Traditionally, this higher level of dilution made SPACs attractive for turnaround stories. Existing shareholders in a business that is struggling are typically more willing to give up an ownership stake in exchange for fresh capital, or a new management team running the company.

Though as Goldman Sachs strategists noted back in December, the sectors now being targeted by SPAC sponsors are no longer beaten down turnaround stories but high growth areas like pharma, tech, and electric vehicles. The SPAC has shifted from being a last resort to a first choice for many companies.

What Is a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC)?

A special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) is a company with no commercial operations that is formed strictly to raise capital through an initial public offering (IPO) for the purpose of acquiring an existing company. Also known as “blank check companies,” SPACs have been around for decades. In recent years, they’ve become more popular, attracting big-name underwriters and investors and raising a record amount of IPO money in 2019. In 2020, as of the beginning of August, more than 50 SPACs have been formed in the U.S. which have raised some $21.5 billion.

Key Takeaways

  • A special purpose acquisition company is formed to raise money through an initial public offering to buy another company.
  • At the time of their IPOs, SPACs have no existing business operations or even stated targets for acquisition.
  • Investors in SPACs can range from well-known private equity funds to the general public.
  • SPACs have two years to complete an acquisition or they must return their funds to investors.

How a SPAC Works

SPACs are generally formed by investors, or sponsors, with expertise in a particular industry or business sector, with the intention of pursuing deals in that area. In creating a SPAC, the founders sometimes have at least one acquisition target in mind, but they don’t identify that target to avoid extensive disclosures during the IPO process. (This is why they are called “blank check companies.” IPO investors have no idea what company they ultimately will be investing in.) SPACs seek underwriters and institutional investors before offering shares to the public.

The money SPACs raise in an IPO is placed in an interest-bearing trust account. These funds cannot be disbursed except to complete an acquisition or to return the money to investors if the SPAC is liquidated. A SPAC generally has two years to complete a deal or face liquidation. In some cases, some of the interest earned from the trust can be used as the SPAC’s working capital. After an acquisition, a SPAC is usually listed on one of the major stock exchanges.

Advantages of a SPAC

Selling to a SPAC can be an attractive option for the owners of a smaller company, which are often private equity funds. First, selling to a SPAC can add up to 20% to the sale price compared to a typical private equity deal. Being acquired by a SPAC can also offer business owners what is essentially a faster IPO process under the guidance of an experienced partner, with less worry about the swings in broader market sentiment.

SPACs Make a Comeback

SPACs have become more common in recent years, with their IPO fundraising hitting a record $13.6 billion in 2019—more than four times the $3.2 billion they raised in 2016. They have also attracted big-name underwriters such as Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, and Deutsche Bank, as well as retired or semi-retired senior executives looking for a shorter-term opportunity.

Examples of High-Profile SPAC Deals

One of the most high-profile recent deals involving special purpose acquisition companies involved Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. Venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya’s SPAC Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings bought a 49% stake in Virgin Galactic for $800 million before listing the company in 2019.1

In 2020, Bill Ackman, founder of Pershing Square Capital Management, sponsored his own SPAC, Pershing Square Tontine Holdings, the largest-ever SPAC, raising $4 billion in its offering on July 22.

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By: Myles Udland

Blank Check Company Definition A blank check company is a developmental stage company that has no specific business plan or has the intent to merge or acquire another firm.

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moreShares Shares are a unit of ownership of a company that may be purchased by an investor.

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moreLearn About Secondary Offering A secondary offering is sale of new or closely held shares of a company that has already made an initial public offering (IPO).

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