Ashmore: Private equity is deep underwater

The private equity industry has indeed sunk if it is being compared with the Beatles’ song “Yellow Submarine.”

Asked at the Dow Jones’ Limited Partners conference last week to come up with a theme song for the industry, Nick Ashmore, head of private equity for the National Pensions Reserve Fund in Dublin, Ireland, reeled off an imaginative few suggestions, including, “Yellow Submarine,” which he nominated as the theme for all the funds underwater, and “Hotel California,” which he dedicated to all the real estate funds where investors could check out but never leave.

Ashmore told investors at the conference he had “sensible” expectations about returns from buyout deals done at the top of the boom, particularly from the bubble period of early 2006 to mid-2007.

“We don’t expect them to generate massive returns,” he said.

However, he has “very high expectations for capital we have committed, but not deployed.” But he doesn’t see himself deploying much cash this year to the asset class.

“If we do any commitments at all this year it will be very modest and probably be around distressed,” Ashmore said.

In regards to LPs, he noted that he and his peers aren’t working together to push for better terms.

“Terms have long been a difficult area, because LPs don’t coordinate or work together to apply the right degree of pressure… to achieve the changes,” he said.

It ends up being “potluck when you do apply pressure on terms,” he said. —Megan Davies. This story previously appeared on the Reuters blog called DealZone.