Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Internal Rate of Return and Private Equity

Private equity funds like to report the returns on their investment using the internal rate of return metric. The IRR is the discount rate which results in the net present value of the stream of cashflows from the investment being zero. This article points out that it is only the true compound rate of return if you can reinvest the payouts that you receive over time at the same rate of return (r.o.r.). This is correct. But it then goes on to say that IRR is meaningless if you can't reinvest the distributions at the same r.o.r. I don't think that is right. If the IRR is higher than the r.o.r. that you can invest the distributions at, then your r.o.r. from investing in the private equity investment and reinvesting your distributions is greater than the r.o.r. you'll receive by just investing in your alternative investment (and vice versa). Your actual r.o.r. won't be as high as the IRR but the IRR is still useful for making decisions. The main issue is that you need to deduct the funds fees to get the true IRR. Often they will report that they made a $1 million investment and sold for $2 million and give the IRR without deducting fees. Probably as a back of the envelope calculation you could deduct 1/4 of the stated IRR in these cases and then compare to your alternative r.o.r.

So, for example, in Aura's latest report to investors they reported IRR's to date on two investments of 59.5% and 29.2%. So, yes, these are very good. Of course, those are the investments whose carrying values they are marking up. They report a 21.3% IRR on an investment they are exiting. But then there are others that are just breaking even.

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