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Book cover: Research in Finance

Research in Finance

ISSN: 0196-3821
Series editor(s): Professor John Kensinger

Subject Area: Accounting and Finance

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Private Equity Arrangements as Real Options

Document Information:
Title:Private Equity Arrangements as Real Options
Author(s):Andrew H. Chen, James A. Conover, John W. Kensinger
Volume:27 Editor(s): John W. Kensinger ISBN: 978-0-85724-541-0 eISBN: 978-0-85724-542-7
Citation:Andrew H. Chen, James A. Conover, John W. Kensinger (2011), Private Equity Arrangements as Real Options, in John W. Kensinger (ed.) Research in Finance (Research in Finance, Volume 27), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.121-136
DOI:10.1108/S0196-3821(2011)0000027006 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article type:Chapter Item

The premise of this discussion is that private equity players intend to create real options that maximize the value derived from potential movement in the worth of the underlying business platform. This intended maximization occurs when the current value of the exercise instrument equals the current value of the underlying asset (so the option is at the money). It is also clear that when the time horizons of different arrangements tend to be consistent (as tends to happen in private equity arrangements) the attraction will be for higher volatility. The actions often criticized in the media are readily understandable in this context. For example, private equity partnerships are criticized for “borrowing heavily to buy companies, breaking them up, and selling off the pieces at huge profits.” Even before exiting, the private equity players separate the acquisitions into business units and asset pools. This changes an option on a portfolio into a portfolio of options, and we know from option pricing theory that the resulting position is worth more than the starting point.

Private equity partnerships also have been criticized for putting acquisitions into debt to receive dividends. Upon acquisition of a new business platform (perhaps composed of multiple business units) the private equity firm has paid a substantial premium for an option on a portfolio. After separating it into multiple options on different business units, the private equity firm might understandably want to sell assets that do not need to be owned (but could be leased instead), thereby reducing their equity investment and bringing the options closer to the money. Then additional borrowing (and withdrawal of dividends) again brings the options closer to the money.

In order to illustrate the nuances of private equity as real options, we include discussion of three recent cases, each illustrating one of the common paths followed in private equity.

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