Private Equity typically refers to investment funds organized as limited partnerships that are not publicly traded and whose investors are typically large institutional investors, university endowments, or wealthy individuals. Private equity firms are known for their extensive use of debt financing to purchase companies, which they restructure and attempt to resell for a higher value. Debt financing reduces corporate taxation burdens and is one of the principal ways in which private equity firms make business more profitable for investors. Because innovations tend to be produced by outsiders and founders in startups, rather than existing organizations, private equity target startups to create value by overcoming agency costs and better aligning the incentives of corporate managers with those of their shareholders.
Private equity is, strictly speaking, a type of equity and one of the asset classes consisting of equity securities and debt in operating companies that are not publicly traded on a stock exchange. However the term has come to be used to describe the business of taking a company into private ownership in order to reform it before selling it again at a hoped-for profit.
A private equity investment will generally be made by a private individual, a venture capital firm or an angel investor. Each of these categories of investors has its own set of goals, preferences and investment strategies; however, all provide working capital to a target company to nurture expansion, new-product development, or restructuring of the company’s operations, management, or ownership.