Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Private equity showdown

Lots of PE-related new today as the heads of the big buyout firms face the select committee. I'm not a big fan of the Indie, but they have actually put a tub-thumping piece on private equity and tax on their front page under the rather ace headline "Tax and the City".

Plenty of stuff in the FT. Of particular note are this bit on the British Chambers of Commerce moaning that the storm around buyouts is creating a bad image for business generally. I totally agree, which is why I am surprised the CBI wants to try and fight the corner for buyouts. The other bit worth reading is Andrew Hill's Lombard column which presents a rather cynical, but probably accurate, view of what today's fund and games really represent. (One thing does annoy about this piece, and that is the (now obligatory) reference to how PE helps fund pensions. Yes, this is true, but the PE weighting in a typical schemes's portfolio is under 3%, so public equity still provides the lion's share. Plus most schemes have no weighting. Plus any asset class that is generating returns helps fund pensions. We don't feel obliged to genuflect towards the Government for providing a returns on bonds do we? Why is PE so special in this regard?)

Anyway..... meanwhile on the pensions issue a Lib Dem MP has called for an inquiry into trustees' powers when sponsoring companies are taken over by buyout funds. See this bit from the Professional Pensions site. Definitely an issue worth keeping an eye on. The buyout mob really need to be seen to be playing fair in terms of pensions obligations or they may face further intervention. So trustees can gain leverage by going public about any concerns.

Finally, the GMB campaign on private equity shows no sign of letting up. They are organising a vote on the leading private equity rogue down at Glastonbury.

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