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Private equity firms weigh options for annual meetings amid virus outbreak

Firms are exploring other options for their annual meetings, like webcasts, or even rescheduling, in case travel becomes prohibitive or impossible.

By Chris Witkowsky and Sarah Pringle

Private equity firms have been talking about the impact of coronavirus, and potential travel restrictions, on annual meeting season, which generally kicks off in the spring each year, sources said Monday.

Firms are exploring other options for their annual meetings, like webcasts, or even rescheduling, in case travel becomes prohibitive.

Annual meetings are important events for firms and their limited partners to catch up on firm changes, strategy, status updates and in-person talks with GPs and portfolio company executives. For some PE shops, annual meetings are the one chance during the year LPs get to meet firm partners in person.

PE sources also are weighing travel to industry conferences, several people told Buyouts Monday. One of the big industry events coming up is the Women in Private Equity Summit in Dana Point next week. One person said she is weighing whether to travel to the event. A spokeswoman for the event did not return a comment request Monday.

Several firms (probably most firms) are leaving travel decisions up to individuals to determine their necessity. General Atlantic is restricting trips to and from locations around the world significantly affected by the virus, as per governmental restrictions, and assessing international travel needs beyond that. Vista Equity also has told employees in heavily impacted areas like China and Hong Kong to work remotely while U.S. employees are expected to use their discretion, sources said.

Ares Management has a similar policy: “Ares has implemented a comprehensive new travel restriction policy that aims to safeguard its employees from exposure from individuals that have traveled to and from the affected areas and which adheres to applicable governmental travel restrictions and recommendations,”, according to a statement from the firm.

“In addition, Ares is encouraging employees to stick to only necessary business travel. We are actively monitoring the developing situation and will continue to take the necessary steps to protect our employees around the world.”

“If you’re not comfortable, you don’t have to go; tell them you’re rescheduling,” one GP source said. “Everybody is going to understand.”

The virus has affected 90,926 people globally, and more than 50 in U.S., according to Wall Street Journal, with 3,117 deaths around the world, and six in the U.S.