Secondary buyouts and the private equity Enhanced Efficiency
Secondary buyouts (SBOs) have become an increasingly common transaction in the private equity (PE) landscape, where one private equity firm sells its stake in a portfolio company to another private equity firm.

Secondary buyouts (SBOs) have become an increasingly common transaction in the private equity (PE) landscape, where one private equity firm sells its stake in a portfolio company to another private equity firm. This trend reflects a maturation of the private equity market and the abundance of capital available for investment. One of the key advantages of SBOs is their enhanced efficiency as an exit mechanism compared to initial public offerings (IPOs) or trade sales. Here's a closer look at why SBOs are often perceived as more efficient exit options:

Streamlined Transaction Process

SBOs typically involve a more streamlined transaction process compared to IPOs or trade sales. In an IPO, a company must undergo a rigorous and time-consuming process of due diligence, regulatory compliance, and marketing to potential investors. This process can take several months to over a year and is subject to market conditions that can affect the timing and success of the IPO. Trade sales, on the other hand, involve finding a suitable strategic buyer, which can be challenging and time-consuming, particularly if the business operates in a niche market.

In contrast, SBOs involve negotiations between private equity firms that are familiar with the transaction process and have a clear understanding of the value drivers within PE-owned businesses. This familiarity can significantly reduce the time from the start of the transaction to its completion.

Reduced Administrative Overhead

SBOs require less administrative overhead than IPOs. Going public involves meeting extensive regulatory requirements, preparing for public disclosure, and setting up processes to manage a broader shareholder base. The administrative burden continues post-IPO, with ongoing requirements for public reporting, compliance, and investor relations.

Similarly, trade sales can involve complex negotiations over terms, integration plans, and potential regulatory hurdles, especially if the buyer operates in a different jurisdiction or if the sale raises antitrust concerns. These factors can introduce significant administrative complexities and delays.

Certainty of Execution

SBOs often offer a higher degree of certainty of execution. In the case of IPOs, market volatility can affect both the timing and the pricing of the offering, introducing uncertainty into the exit process. Trade sales are subject to due diligence by the buyer, which can uncover issues that delay or derail the transaction. Furthermore, strategic buyers may have operational or strategic priorities that change over the course of the negotiation, affecting their willingness or ability to complete the transaction.

Conversely, private equity buyers in an SBO are typically committed to the deal and capable of moving quickly to completion. Their expertise in executing transactions and managing portfolio companies can reduce the risks of unforeseen issues arising during due diligence.

Focus on Strategic Fit and Value Creation

Private equity firms engaging in SBOs are adept at identifying strategic fit and value creation opportunities in their acquisitions. The selling PE firm can leverage this expertise to achieve a favorable valuation for the portfolio company, while the buying PE firm can execute on identified operational improvements or growth strategies post-acquisition. This mutual understanding of value creation in the PE model can facilitate smoother negotiations and a more efficient transaction process.

Secondary buyouts (SBOs) in the private equity (PE) sector underscore a fascinating aspect of the investment lifecycle, emphasizing the continuous pursuit of value creation within portfolio companies. Unlike initial acquisitions from corporate entities or family owners, SBOs involve a transaction between two PE firms, where the seller believes that they have maximized their value creation potential within the investment horizon, and the buyer sees further opportunities for growth and improvement. Here’s how SBOs facilitate ongoing value creation and can yield better returns:

Leveraging Previous Improvements

The initial PE firm typically invests significant resources into professionalizing the management, streamlining operations, enhancing financial controls, and driving organic and inorganic growth. These improvements not only increase the company's value at the point of the SBO but also create a strong foundation for the next owner to build upon. The incoming PE firm can leverage these enhancements as a springboard for further value creation initiatives.

New Perspectives and Strategies

A fresh set of eyes can identify new opportunities for growth and efficiency gains that the outgoing PE firm may not have pursued. This could be due to differences in expertise, investment philosophy, or the strategic networks of the incoming PE firm. The new owner may bring to the table alternative strategies for expansion, such as geographic diversification, digital transformation, or exploring new customer segments, which can unlock additional value in the portfolio company.

Additional Capital for Growth

Secondary buyouts often provide the portfolio company with access to new capital for further expansion. The acquiring PE firm may be willing to invest additional equity to finance growth initiatives, such as capital expenditures, research and development, or acquisitions, that can drive revenue and earnings growth beyond what was achieved by the previous owner.

Extended Investment Horizon

SBOs reset the investment clock, giving the portfolio company more time under PE ownership to pursue long-term strategic initiatives that require time to mature. Whereas the selling PE firm might be nearing the end of its fund's investment period, necessitating an exit, the buying firm can afford to take a longer-term view, supporting the company through its next growth phase.

Operational and Sector Expertise

PE firms often have specific operational or sector expertise that can be instrumental in unlocking further value in a portfolio company. An incoming PE firm with a strong track record in a particular industry may see opportunities for operational improvements, margin expansion, or revenue growth that were not fully exploited by the previous owner.

Incentivizing Management

An SBO can also reinvigorate the portfolio company's management team. New ownership may bring new incentives, aligning management's goals with the next growth phase. This might include revised equity participation schemes or bonuses tied to achieving ambitious growth targets set by the new PE owner.

Market Timing

The timing of an SBO can also play a role in value creation. If market conditions have improved since the initial buyout, the incoming PE firm may be able to capitalize on favorable industry trends, regulatory changes, or technological advancements that open up new avenues for growth.

Secondary buyouts represent a unique mechanism within the private equity ecosystem for sustaining and accelerating the value creation process. Through SBOs, portfolio companies benefit from renewed strategic focus, additional capital, and the expertise of a new PE owner, all of which can drive significant value beyond the initial investment. For the PE firms involved, SBOs offer a pathway to realizing returns on their investments while providing the opportunity to further enhance a company's value, ultimately yielding better returns upon exit. This continuous cycle of investment, improvement, and reinvestment underscores the dynamic nature of private equity as a catalyst for business growth and transformation.


Secondary buyouts offer a compelling exit route for private equity firms looking to divest their stakes in portfolio companies efficiently. The streamlined transaction process, reduced administrative overhead, certainty of execution, and focus on strategic fit and value creation all contribute to making SBOs an attractive alternative to IPOs or trade sales. As the private equity market continues to evolve, SBOs are likely to remain a key feature of the PE landscape, offering both sellers and buyers opportunities to achieve their strategic objectives.   FD Capital are leaders when PE houses need to recruit senior finance professionals.