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Capital Markets

EXPOSED! The shocking truth about private equity

As the supercharged returns of the boom years evaporate, investors are starting to ask tough questions about how – and if – private equity really works. Louise Bowman reports.

RETICENCE IS NOT an attribute widely valued among the financial elite. But it was a characteristic surprisingly prevalent among several private equity firms when Euromoney approached them over the summer to talk about their business. There seems to be something of a siege mentality in the industry these days – the product of far from complimentary press coverage of some of private equity’s less than stellar investment decisions – as well as observations from some quarters that "of all the asset classes that went parabolic from 2004 to 2008 private equity funds may have done the best Icarus impression". The excesses of the boom years have certainly removed the veneer of infallibility from the buyout industry and produced a legion of disgruntled investors that have seen some of their fail-safe investments turn to dust. But make no mistake; some people are still making an awful lot of money from this business. Industry leader KKR reported net income of $143.7 million for the first half of this year and Blackstone chief Steven Schwarzman, despite his firm recording a second-quarter loss up from $164.3

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