Private equity refinance loans hit record rate

Michael Bow
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PRIVATE equity firms are tapping debt markets at a record rate to refinance the companies they own as an alternative to selling them, new figures show.

About €23bn (£19bn) of European private equity-related loans have been re-negotiated in the first three quarters of the year, two-third higher than last year and an increase on the €17bn re-negotiated in 2011.

In the US, the figure is even higher, with $149bn of loan and high-yield bond refinancing in 2013, the statistics from Standard & Poor’s reveals.

Around €11bn of debt has also been used for dividend recapitalisations, which allow private equity firms to take dividends out of a company while remaining owners. This is the largest amount since 2007.

The total sum dwarfs the amount of cash buyout houses have borrowed to fund new acquisitions, underscoring the influence of low interest rates.

Funds can often do better by re-negotiating debts and borrowing money cheaply, rather than selling companies.