3 questions to smart minds

Institutional investors tend to make more PE direct investments

For this 3 questions to Florian Hirschmann

DLA Piper UK LLP, Munich
Photo: Florian Hirschmann
28. Febru­ary 2017

For years, insti­tu­tio­nal inves­tors have faced the chall­enge of finding promi­sing capi­tal invest­ments despite persis­t­ently low inte­rest rates. The importance of alter­na­tive invest­ments in the context of holi­stic port­fo­lio manage­ment has increased to such an extent that insti­tu­tio­nal inves­tors from over­seas are now even making direct invest­ments in Europe.

For this 3 ques­ti­ons to Lawyer, Part­ner and Co-Head China Desk at DLA Piper UK LLP, Munich

1. Why is it that insti­tu­tio­nal inves­tors from over­seas, for exam­ple pension funds, are now making direct invest­ments in Germany/EU? What kind of compa­nies are they inte­res­ted in?

In recent years, Cana­dian pension funds such as CPPIB (Canada Pension Plan Invest­ment Board) and Onta­rio Teachers have been parti­cu­larly successful with direct invest­ments, while U.S. pension funds have tended to act more conser­va­tively. US pension funds in parti­cu­lar now seem to want to make up for lost time. Instead of putting money into funds mana­ged by outside third parties, so-called funds of funds, pension funds are incre­asingly willing to invest directly due to their many years of private equity expe­ri­ence. In the low inte­rest rate envi­ron­ment of recent years, direct invest­ments were made in parti­cu­lar in real assets such as infra­struc­ture and real estate, which provi­ded compa­ra­tively secure, predic­ta­ble returns.

Incre­asingly, we see growing inte­rest in mid-sized, German compa­nies with a strong tech­no­logy focus that show signi­fi­cant growth poten­tial. In gene­ral, howe­ver, it should be noted in this context that direct invest­ment in compa­nies conti­nues to be the excep­tion. This is due in parti­cu­lar to the fact that insti­tu­tio­nal inves­tors often do not have the speci­fic indus­try know­ledge to realize the value enhance­ment poten­tial of the companies.

2. Do you think it is likely that the number of such direct invest­ments by insti­tu­tio­nal inves­tors will conti­nue to rise?

A further increase in direct invest­ments, not only by pension funds but also by insu­rance compa­nies, can be expec­ted. The growing inte­rest of such insti­tu­tio­nal inves­tors in direct invest­ment is statis­ti­cally veri­fia­ble. Accor­ding to studies, the volume of alter­na­tive invest­ments has doubled since 2005 to more than $7.2 trillion. 

In view of the fact that the growth poten­tial for invest­ments in real assets, espe­ci­ally infra­struc­ture invest­ments, appears to be largely exhaus­ted in Germany, we assume that the focus of foreign pension funds will conti­nue to shift towards direct invest­ments in tech­no­logy companies.

3. Are German insti­tu­tio­nal inves­tors equally active in direct private equity investments?

German insti­tu­tio­nal inves­tors are also diver­si­fy­ing their invest­ment stra­te­gies. Alter­na­tive invest­ments are beco­ming incre­asingly important in a low-inte­rest envi­ron­ment. A diver­si­fied private equity port­fo­lio can meet all market requi­re­ments and still gene­rate attrac­tive returns. US pension funds alre­ady invest 9.4% of their port­fo­lios in private equity. Howe­ver, private equity has a diffe­rent history as an alter­na­tive invest­ment for insti­tu­tio­nal inves­tors, parti­cu­larly in the US. Accor­ding to surveys, howe­ver, a signi­fi­cant propor­tion of insti­tu­tio­nal inves­tors are conside­ring incre­asing their allo­ca­ti­ons to private equity in the coming year.

About Florian Hirschmann

Florian Hirsch­mann advi­ses clients in the field of corpo­rate law, in parti­cu­lar on natio­nal and inter­na­tio­nal private equity and M&A tran­sac­tions, venture capi­tal and joint ventures. — Florian Hirsch­mann is also co-head of the China Desk at DLA Piper. In this context, he and his German-Chinese team have exten­sive expe­ri­ence in China-rela­ted manda­tes, in parti­cu­lar with Chinese inves­tors in Germany as well as joint ventures of German compa­nies in China or M&A transactions.

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