Do You Get What You See in Private Equity? A Bayesian Decomposition of Investment Skills

Analyzing a large sample of gross fund-level and deal-level returns in Private Equity (PE), we study systematic differences in investment skills across PE firms and what investors can learn about the true skill of PE firms from past performance. We extend the framework of Korteweg and Sorensen (2017) and establish a flexible variance decomposition model that estimates heterogeneity in returns, idiosyncratic risk-taking, and default risk. Our results show that investment skills are systematically different across PE firms with an estimated interquartile spread of returns ranging from 23% to 26% for deals and 17% to 21% for funds, relative to the market. Further, we find significant heterogeneity in idiosyncratic risk and default risk, but higher idiosyncratic variation does not explain higher expected returns. Since returns inherit substantial noise and spurious correlations from overlapping investments, investors require a considerable number of observations to learn about the true skill of PE firms.


Alexander Juergens

Technische Universität München (TUM) - TUM School of Management

Reiner Braun

Technische Universität München (TUM) - TUM School of Management; Center for Entrepreneurial and Financial Studies

Yichun Dong

Technical University of Munich