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Private Equity

Private equity, a form of equity capital, has played a significant role in the global financial world in recent decades. This article looks at the fundamentals, mechanisms and growing importance of private equity in the modern economic system and examines how this form of investment brings both opportunities and challenges for investors and companies.

What is Private Equity?

Private equity (PE) is a form of equity capital that is invested in unlisted companies. In contrast to public equity markets, where shares in companies are freely traded, private equity involves investments in companies that are not listed on the stock exchange.

Overall, private equity is a dynamic and complex form of investment that brings with it both considerable opportunities and risks. It plays an important role in the financing and development of companies and contributes to the innovative strength and competitiveness of the economy.

What distinguishes Private Equity from other forms of finance?

This table provides an overview of the classification, differentiation and comparison of private equity with other common forms of financing.

Characteristic/Financial form Private equity Venture capital Listed shares Bonds Bank loans
Target companies Unlisted, established companies Start-ups and young companies Public, listed companies Companies and governments Companies and private individuals
Investment phase Later stages, expansion, restructuring Early stages, growth All phases Later stages, expansion, financing All phases
Investment volume Very high, often millions to billions High, but lower than PE Variable, depending on market price Variable, depending on bond Variable, depending on loan terms
Source of capital Institutional investors, wealthy individuals Institutional investors, business angels Public markets, retail investors Institutional and retail investors Banks and financial institutions
Liquidity Low, long-term commitment Low, medium-term commitment High, daily trading Medium, depending on bond terms Medium to high, depending on loan terms
Expected return High, due to higher risk Very high, due to very high risk Variable, often moderate to high Low to medium, depending on credit rating Medium, depending on interest rate
Risk profile High, active management Very high, early development phase Medium to high, market-dependent Low to medium, depending on issuer Medium, depending on credit rating
Management involvement Active, strategic influence Active, supportive Passive, voting rights at annual general meetings Passive, no influence Passive, no influence
Degree of regulation Low to medium, private transactions Low, private transactions High, strict stock exchange regulation Medium to high, dependent on the market Medium to high, dependent on laws
Exit strategies IPO, sale to strategic buyers IPO, sale to strategic buyers Sale on the stock market Sale on the bond market or at maturity Repayment at maturity
Example Purchase of an established company Financing of a technology start-up Purchase of shares in a DAX company Purchase of government bonds Raising a corporate loan  

The Function of Private Equity explained simply

In summary, private equity helps companies to grow and become more successful, while investors have the opportunity to make high profits. Here are the main functions of private equity explained in more detail and in simple terms:

  1. Collecting money: Private equity firms raise money from large investors, such as pension funds, insurance companies and wealthy individuals.
  2. Buying companies: They use this raised money to buy shares in existing companies or take over entire companies.
  3. Improve companies: Private equity firms work closely with the companies they buy to improve them. This can be done through better business strategies, cost reductions or new products.
  4. Increase value: The aim is to increase the value of the company. If the company becomes more successful, its value also increases.
  5. Sell: After a few years, private equity firms sell their shares in the company again. This can be to the stock market, to other companies, or to other investors.
  6. Distribute profits: The profits made are then paid back to the original investors.

Private Equity Munich

Munich is an important location for private equity in Germany and is home to numerous private equity companies. These companies play an important role in the financing and development of companies in various sectors. Some well-known private equity firms that are based in Munich or have offices there include:

  • Montagu Private Equity: A leading European private equity firm specializing in medium-sized companies.
  • Equistone Partners Europe: An experienced investor in medium-sized companies in various sectors.
  • Brockhaus Capital Management: Focuses on high-growth technology and innovation companies.
  • DPE Deutsche Private Equity: Invests in medium-sized companies in German-speaking countries.
  • Bregal Unternehmerkapital: Supports medium-sized companies with capital and operational expertise.

These and other private equity firms in Munich invest in a variety of sectors, including technology, healthcare, industrial and consumer goods, and contribute to the economic development of the region.

Important terms relating to
Private Equity explained

Private equity terms explained

Private equity Investments in unlisted companies with the aim of increasing their value.
Institutional investors Large organizations such as pension funds and insurance companies that invest in private equity.
Buyout The purchase of a company, often in its entirety, by a private equity firm.
Venture capital Early-stage financing for start-ups and young companies with high growth potential.
Growth capital Capital for established companies that want to finance further growth.
Leveraged buyout (LBO) The acquisition of a company with a high proportion of debt.
Exit strategy The sale of the investment by the private equity firm in order to realize profits.
Initial Public Offering (IPO) The initial public offering of a company, a form of exit for private equity firms.
Management buyout (MBO) Purchase of a company by the existing management, often supported by private equity.
Distressed investments Investments in companies in financial difficulties with the aim of restructuring them.
Due diligence Careful examination of a company prior to an investment.
Portfolio companies Companies in which a private equity firm has invested.
Capital call The process by which investors are invited to contribute committed capital to the fund.
Fund life cycle The period during which a private equity fund is active, typically 10 years.
Carried interest Profit-sharing by the managers of a private equity fund, often as an incentive for good performance.

This table provides an overview of important terms and their meaning in the context of private equity.

Objectives of Private Equity Companies

Private equity firms have a number of objectives aimed at maximizing the value of their investments and generating high returns for their investors. Here are the most important objectives:

Increase in value of the portfolio companies

The primary goal of private equity companies is to increase the value of the companies in which they invest. This can be achieved through various measures:

  • Operational improvements: Optimizing business processes, reducing costs and increasing efficiency.
  • Growth strategies: Promote sales growth through market expansion, introduction of new products or services and development of new customers.
  • Financial restructuring: optimizing the capital structure by reducing debt or refinancing in order to increase financial stability and flexibility.

Achieving high returns

Private equity companies strive to achieve high financial returns for their investors. These returns result from the successful sale or IPO of the portfolio companies at a higher value than the original purchase price.


An important goal is to plan and execute successful exits in order to realize the investments:

  • Initial Public Offering (IPO): The initial public offering of a company to trade shares publicly and raise capital.
  • Sale to strategic buyers: Sale of the company to other companies that want to exploit strategic synergies.
  • Sale to other financial investors: Sale to other private equity firms or institutional investors.

Portfolio diversification

Private equity companies strive to diversify their investment portfolio in order to spread risks and increase the stability of their returns. This can be achieved by investing in different sectors, regions and company sizes.

Active participation and control

Another objective is to actively participate in the Corporate Management and strategic direction of the portfolio companies:

  • Management support: Providing expertise and resources to strengthen the management team.
  • Strategic decisions: Participation in key decisions, such as acquisitions, partnerships and expansions.

Long-term partnerships

Private equity firms seek to build long-term partnerships with the management teams of their portfolio companies to promote sustainable development and value creation.

Maximizing investor value

Ultimately, private equity firms aim to maximize value for their investors. This includes achieving high returns, but also ensuring that investments are in line with investors' long-term interests and strategies.

In summary, private equity firms focus on increasing the value of their portfolio companies, achieving high returns, successfully planning exits, diversifying their portfolio, actively participating and controlling, and building long-term partnerships to maximize value for their investors.

Who can participate in private equity?

Various types of investors can participate in private equity and must meet certain criteria in order to gain access to this asset class.

Overview: Who can participate in Private Equity?

The following diagram shows the main groups that can participate in private equity.

Explanation: Who can participate in Private Equity?

In summary, mainly institutional investors, high net worth individuals and companies can participate in private equity, provided they meet the financial and regulatory requirements and have the necessary expertise and risk appetite. The main groups that can participate in private equity are explained in more detail here:


  • Companies with surplus capital: Large corporations and companies with surplus capital can invest in private equity to increase their returns and exploit strategic synergies.
  • Corporates: They often invest in private equity to gain strategic advantages or to gain access to new technologies and markets.

Private equity firms and funds

  • Private equity firms: These companies specialize in raising capital and investing in unlisted companies. They manage funds that pool the capital of many investors.

Qualified investors

  • Accredited investors: In many countries, only accredited investors - those who exceed certain income or asset limits - are allowed to invest in private equity.
  • Professional investors: Individuals or institutions with extensive experience and expertise in the field of investment can also gain access to private equity.

Criteria for participation

  • Financial threshold: High minimum investment amounts, often several million dollars, restrict access to private equity to wealthy investors.
  • Experience and knowledge: A deep understanding of the markets and the specific risks and opportunities of private equity investments is required.
  • Willingness to take risks: As private equity is associated with high risks, investors must be prepared to bear this risk.

Advantages and disadvantages of private equity funds

This table provides an overview of the main advantages and disadvantages of private equity funds that investors should consider when making their decisions.

Advantages of private equity funds Disadvantages of private equity funds
High potential returns: Private equity investments often offer high returns that exceed those of traditional equity markets. High risk: The potential gains come with significant risks, including the total loss of the investment.
Active management: PE firms often bring in expertise and resources to improve the management and strategy of the company. Illiquidity: Private equity investments are less liquid because they are usually tied up for the long term and cannot be sold quickly.
Long-term horizon: Private equity investments often have a longer investment horizon, which allows for strategic change and growth. High minimum investment: PE funds often require high minimum investments that are inaccessible to smaller investors.
Access to exclusive investment opportunities: PE firms have access to private deals and companies that are not traded on public markets. Complex structure: The structure and functioning of PE funds are often complex and require specialized knowledge.
Portfolio diversification: By investing in different companies and sectors, PE funds can spread the risk in the portfolio. Management fees and costs: PE funds charge high management fees and performance fees, which can reduce net returns.
Strategic investments: PE firms often have significant influence over management and can actively shape strategic decisions. Regulatory risks: Changes in legislation or regulation can affect the operation and profitability of PE funds.
Resources and networks: PE firms offer access to a broad network of experts and other companies, which promotes growth and development. Exit risks: The success of PE investments depends heavily on successful exit strategies, which can be influenced by market conditions.
Flexibility in structuring transactions: PE firms can use flexible financing and transaction structures to create customized solutions. Conflicts with management: Active involvement can lead to conflicts with existing management, which can affect Corporate Management.

How do private equity companies differ?

Private equity (PE) firms differ in several key ways, including their size, the types of investments they make, the strategies they pursue and the industries in which they specialize. Here are the key differentiators:

Size and capital volume

  • Large PE firms: These often manage billions in capital and make large-volume investments. Examples include firms such as Blackstone, KKR and Carlyle Group.
  • Medium-sized PE firms: These usually manage several hundred million to a few billion and focus on medium-sized companies.
  • Small PE firms: These manage smaller amounts of capital and often focus on smaller or specialized market segments.

Investment strategies

  • Buyout firms: These usually buy majority stakes in established companies, often through leveraged buyouts (LBOs). The aim is to restructure the companies and increase their value.
  • Venture capital firms: These invest in start-ups and young companies, often in early stages of development, and focus on high growth potential.
  • Growth capital firms: These invest in established companies that need capital for growth without taking control of the company.
  • Distressed/turnaround firms: These specialize in investing in companies in financial difficulty to restructure them and return them to profitability.
  • Sector-specific companies: These focus on specific industries such as technology, healthcare, real estate or consumer goods.

Geographic focus

  • Global PE firms: These operate worldwide and have offices in different countries to capitalize on international investment opportunities.
  • Regional or local PE firms: These focus on investments in specific regions or countries, often with deep understanding and network in those markets.

Degree of participation

  • Control investors: These take majority or full control of the target company in order to actively participate in its management and strategic direction.
  • Minority investors: These acquire only a minority stake and exert less direct influence on the management.

Fund structure

  • Single-fund structure: Some PE firms operate only one main fund into which all investors pay.
  • Multi-fund structure: Other PE firms manage several specialized funds that invest in different sectors, regions or company sizes.

Focus on development phases

  • Early-stage investors: These invest in young companies in the start-up or early phase.
  • Growth-stage investors: These focus on companies that are already established but require further growth capital.
  • Late-stage investors: These invest in more mature companies that may be ready for an IPO or sale.

Specialization and expertise

  • Generalists: These invest in a variety of sectors and types of companies.
  • Specialists: These focus on specific sectors, technologies or market segments in which they have deep expertise and extensive networks.


Private equity firms differ in terms of their size, the amount of capital under management, the type and stage of investments, their geographical focus, the degree of participation, the structure of their funds and their specialization and expertise. These differences influence the investment strategies and the type of companies in which they invest.

Opportunities and risks
of Private Equity

Opportunities & risks of private equity

Aspect Opportunities Risks
Return High potential returns through active management and increasing the value of the company High risk of loss in the event of bad investments or failed restructurings
Influence Active influence on Corporate Management and strategic decisions Management conflicts or wrong decisions can jeopardize the company's success
Value enhancement Opportunity to increase company value through operational improvements, cost reductions and expansion Limited opportunities to increase value in saturated or stagnating markets
Network Access to a broad network of experts and other companies Dependence on the network and external consultants can lead to high costs
Innovation Promotion of innovation and growth through capital injection and management support Risk that innovations do not bring the desired market drive
Flexibility Flexibility in the structuring of financing and transactions Complex financing structures can lead to higher risk and increased complexity
Diversification Diversification of the investment portfolio by investing in different companies Concentration risk if too many investments are made in similar sectors or markets
Access to capital Access to significant capital resources for companies in growth or turnaround phases High minimum investment limits accessibility for smaller investors
Exit opportunities Diverse exit strategies (e.g. IPO, sale to strategic buyers) offer flexibility and potential Difficult market conditions or lack of buyers can delay or make exit impossible
Regulation Less stringent regulation compared to public markets Increased regulatory intervention and changes can affect the business environment and strategy
Liquidity Opportunity to tie up capital for the long term and focus on long-term value appreciation Low liquidity as investments are usually tied up for the long term and cannot be sold quickly

This table provides an overview of the opportunities and risks of private equity, and shows that this form of investment brings with it both considerable potential and significant challenges.

Why is private equity being criticized?

Private equity has been criticized for various reasons relating to financial, social and economic aspects. Here are the main points of criticism:

Impact on the local economy

  • Description: Restructuring and site closures resulting from private equity takeovers can negatively impact local communities and economies.
  • Criticism: These measures can lead to job losses and a reduction in economic activity in affected regions.

Significant fees and costs

  • Description: Private equity funds charge high management and performance fees.
  • Criticism: These fees can significantly reduce net returns for investors and raise questions of fairness and appropriateness.

Tax advantages

  • Description: Private equity firms often take advantage of tax benefits, such as the deductibility of interest expenses.
  • Criticism: This is seen as unfair as it allows companies to minimize tax liabilities, which ultimately reduces public revenues.

Long-term corporate health

  • Description: The focus on increasing value and profits can lead to a neglect of long-term corporate health.
  • Criticism: Measures to maximize profits in the short term can weaken a company's ability to innovate and compete in the long term.

Possible conflicts of interest

  • Description: Private equity managers may make decisions that are in their own interests or the interests of the private equity firm, but not in the best interests of the portfolio companies or their stakeholders.
  • Criticism: This can lead to decisions that affect the long-term success and sustainability of the companies.

These criticisms reflect concerns that while private equity can generate significant returns for investors, it often comes at the expense of the long-term health of companies and the social and economic stability of the communities in which those companies operate.

What forms and strategies are there for private equity funds?

There are various forms of private equity funds that differ in their objectives, the types of companies they invest in and the strategies they pursue. These different forms of private equity funds offer investors a wide range of options, depending on their risk preferences, capital amounts and specific investment objectives. Here are the main forms of private equity funds:

Form of private equity fund Description Objective Expected return
Venture capital (VC) funds Invest in young, innovative companies in the early stages of development, often start-ups Provide early-stage capital to promote growth and new technologies/business models Very high, but also associated with high risk
Growth equity funds Invest in established companies that require further growth capital Finance expansion projects, market entries or acquisitions High, as they support companies in the growth phase
Buyout funds Invest in more mature companies, often through the purchase of a majority stake or complete takeover Restructuring, efficiency enhancement and strategic realignment to increase value High, through operational improvements and financial restructuring
Mezzanine funds Provide a mix of equity and debt, often in the form of subordinated debt or convertible securities Financing of expansions or acquisitions Medium to high, through interest and equity participation
Distressed/Special Situations Funds Investing in companies in financial difficulties or undervalued companies Restructuring and reorganization to increase the value of the company Very high, as these investments are associated with high risks
Fund of Funds Investing in a variety of private equity funds rather than directly in companies Diversifying the portfolio and spreading risk by investing in several funds Variable, depending on the performance of the underlying funds
Real Estate Private Equity Funds Investing in real estate projects and companies Capital for the acquisition, development and management of real estate to increase value High, depending on developments in the real estate market and the success of the projects
Infrastructure funds Invest in infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, airports and utilities Finance and manage large infrastructure projects to generate stable long-term returns Medium to high, as infrastructure investments often offer stable cash flows
Secondaries funds Purchase existing private equity investments from other investors, often at a discount Acquire existing investments to benefit from their future appreciation Medium to high, depending on the acquired investments and their future performance

Private equity investors: tips for the first investment

Investing in private equity for the first time can be both exciting and challenging. Here are some tips that can help you make an informed decision and invest successfully in this area:

  1. Understand the basics
    • Education: Take the time to learn the basics of private equity, including the different types of funds, investment strategies and risk profiles.
    • Research: Read books, articles and reports on private equity and follow current market trends.
  2. Choose the right fund
    • Due diligence: Conduct a thorough review of the funds and the private equity firm. Pay attention to their track record, management team and investment strategies.
    • Comparison: Compare different funds to find the one that best suits your investment goals and risk profile.
  3. Diversify your portfolio
    • Allocation: Don't invest all your capital in a single private equity fund. Diversify your investments across different funds and asset classes to spread the risk.
    • Sectors and regions: Diversify within private equity as well by investing in different industries and geographic regions.
  4. Assess your risk appetite
    • Self-assessment: Be honest with yourself about your risk tolerance and financial goals.
    • Long-term horizon: Understand that private equity is a long-term investment and your capital will be tied up for several years.
  5. Understand the cost structure
    • Fees: Familiarize yourself with the various fee structures, including management fees and performance fees.
    • Net returns: Consider the impact of these fees on your net returns.
  6. Access to expertise
    • Advice: Consider consulting a financial advisor or private equity expert to make informed decisions.
    • Network: Use your network to get recommendations and advice from experienced investors.
  7. Regular review and adjustment
    • Monitoring: Regularly monitor the performance of your investments and stay informed about developments in the portfolio companies.
    • Adjustment: Be prepared to adjust your investment strategy if market conditions or your financial goals change.
  8. Tax implications
    • Advice: Consult a tax advisor to understand and optimize the tax implications of your investments.
    • Structuring: Consider how you can structure your investments to maximize tax benefits.
  9. Understand the exit strategies
    • Planning: Learn about the different exit strategies (e.g. IPO, sale to strategic buyers) and their potential impact on your returns.
    • Time horizon: Be aware that exits can often take several years and depend on market conditions.
  10. Realistic expectations
    • Expectations: Have realistic expectations regarding returns and risks. Private equity can offer high returns, but is also associated with considerable risks.
    • Patience: Be patient and understand that private equity investments take time to develop.

By following these tips, you can increase your chances of a successful and profitable first investment in private equity.


Which Private Equity Companies are there?

There are many well-known private equity companies that are active worldwide. Among the largest and most renowned are Blackstone, KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts), Carlyle Group, Apollo Global Management and TPG Capital. These companies manage billions of dollars and invest in various sectors and regions. In addition, there are numerous medium-sized and smaller private equity companies that often specialize in certain sectors or geographical markets. For example, firms such as Bain Capital and Warburg Pincus focus on a wide range of industries, while companies such as Silver Lake Partners specialize in technology investments. In Germany, EQT Partners and Permira are well-known names in private equity.

Who are Private Equity Investors?

Private equity investors are usually institutional investors such as pension funds, insurance companies, foundations and university funds that can invest large amounts of capital. High net worth individuals and family offices, which manage the assets of wealthy families, are also typical investors in private equity. In addition, investment funds and funds of funds also invest in private equity to diversify risk and gain access to a wider range of investment opportunities. These investors are looking for high returns and are prepared to tie up their capital for the long term in order to benefit from the potential capital appreciation that can be achieved through private equity investments.

How many Private Equity Companies are there in Germany?

There are a large number of private equity companies in Germany, although the exact number varies and changes over time. It is estimated that there are several hundred private equity companies active in the German market. These include both international companies that invest in Germany and national companies that specialize in German SMEs and specific sectors. The exact number may vary depending on the source and the criteria used to define a private equity company.

How do Private Equity Firms make money?

Private equity firms earn money through various sources of income. The main source is management fees, which are charged annually as a percentage of the capital under management, typically around 2 percent. In addition, they receive a profit share, also known as “carried interest”, which usually amounts to 20 percent of the profits from the investments. These profits are realized when the portfolio companies are sold at a higher value than the original purchase price, often after operational improvements and strategic changes. In addition, private equity firms may receive fees for services such as advisory, transaction management and financing that they provide to their portfolio companies.

Why are Private Equity Companies specialized?

Private equity firms often specialize in order to target their expertise and resources to maximize the value of their investments. Specialization allows them to develop deep industry knowledge, networks and expertise in specific sectors, which helps them make better investment decisions and work more effectively with portfolio company management teams. This specialization enables them to identify trends and opportunities at an early stage and develop tailored strategies for growth and value creation. In addition, specialized private equity firms can improve their risk management by focusing on areas where they can better understand and manage market and business risks.

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