April 14, 2017


FT – Rise of private debt creates fears of a bubble – Robin Wigglesworth 4/13

  • “Banks have in recent years been forced to retrench their operations, tamed by financial crisis losses, bridled by shareholders and tethered by more onerous regulation. Lending to smaller and mid-sized companies has been one of the biggest victims, as banks have focused on servicing their blue-chip clients. But a swelling array of investors have stepped into the resulting breach.”
  • “But some industry insiders are beginning to worry that private debt is getting frothy, as billions of dollars roll into a once-niche market.”
  • “Private debt is a large and diverse ecosystem, made up of asset managers, private equity firms, pension funds, insurers, ‘business development companies‘ and hedge funds. The assets under management of private debt fund managers tracked by Preqin have increased fourfold over the past decade to $595bn at the end of last year, after another 131 funds raised $93bn in 2016. At the current growth rate, the data provider reckons the industry could reach $2.5tn in another decade — rivalling the private equity world.”
  • “The investor enthusiasm is palpable. More than 90% of investors polled by Preqin said their private debt returns met or exceeded their expectations, and 62% plan to increase their allocation over the long run. That made it a more popular asset class than more traditional alternative allocation stalwarts like real estate, infrastructure, natural resources and private equity.”
  • “But returns have been souring lately. Preqin’s latest median net internal rate of return — a popular industry measure of performance — for direct lending funds set up in 2010-14 has gradually dipped from 10.6% for the 2010 vintage, to 7.6% for 2014 vintage funds. One analyst says that while a private debt fund might reasonably expect to collect an interest rate of 10-12% five years ago, a similar loan would only pay 5% to 6% today, as a result of all the money gushing in.”
  • “The industry itself is becoming a little warier. Almost half of fund managers polled by Preqin said valuations were a big problem, with 31% citing deal flow and 27% highlighting fee pressure. On the other hand, only 3% due diligence on their lending was a ‘key challenge.'”
  • “It is too early to call time on the private debt binge. The economy is ticking along nicely, quelling any corporate distress, and the amount of money chasing potential borrowers will paper over many cracks. But when the business cycle inevitably at some point rolls over, many investors will discover that the interest rates they are now charging are inadequate compensation for the risks.”
  • “This is a story as old as capitalism itself. A promising new market proves phenomenally profitable, attracting more players and eventually some tourists. Returns are eroded, standards fall and eventually it ends in tears. Private debt has a vibrant future, but there will be some bumps along the way.”


Economist – A new mood of optimism infects investors in China’s banks 4/12

WSJ – China’s Trillion-Dollar Yuan Defense Puts Growth at Risk – Lingling Wei 4/13

  • “The greatest risk in 2017, is that China is forced to choose in favor of financial-system stability at the expense of exchange-rate stability.” – Gene Frieda, global strategist at Pacific Investment Management Co.


Economist – East Germany’s population is shrinking 4/15

  • “Despite an influx of 1.2m refugees over the past two years, Germany’s population faces near-irreversible decline. According to predictions from the UN in 2015, two in five Germans will be over 60 by 2050 and Europe’s oldest country will have shrunk to 75m from 82m. Since the 1970s, more Germans have been dying than are born. Fewer births and longer lives are a problem for most rich countries. But the consequences are more acute for Germany, where birth rates are lower than in Britain and France.”

North Korea

Bloomberg – China Warns of War Risk as Trump Rattles Saber at North Korea 4/14

  • “China warned that a war on the Korean Peninsula would have devastating consequences as the U.S. threatened military retaliation against North Korea if it proceeds with a nuclear test this weekend.”


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