Cyclicality, performance measurement, and cash flow liquidity in private equity
We study the liquidity properties of private equity cash flows using data from 837 buyout and venture capital funds from 1984 to 2010. Most cash flow variation at a point in time is diversifiable — either idiosyncratic to a given fund or explained by the fund's age. Both capital calls and distributions also have a procyclical systematic component. Distributions are more sensitive than calls, implying procyclical aggregate net cash flows. A consequence is that the well-known finding that funds raised in hot markets underperform in absolute terms is sharply attenuated when comparing to public equities. Consistent with a liquidity premium for calling capital in bad times, we find that funds with a relatively high propensity to do so perform better in both absolute and relative terms. Venture capital cash flows and performance are considerably more cyclical than buyout, and the links between cyclical cash flows and performance are likewise stronger.