Of all the amazing quotes we've seen pulled from the credit boom years, this 2-year-old internal letter from private-equity giant The Carlyle Group truly speaks volumes about the bubble private equity was riding:
The fabulous profits that we have been able to generate ... are not solely a function of our investment genius, but have resulted in large part from a great market and the availability of enormous amounts of cheap debt ... I know that this liquidity environment cannot go on forever ... I know that the longer it lasts, the greater the pressures will be on all of us to take advantage of this liquidity. And I know that the longer it lasts, the worse it will be when it ends.
Those comments were made in January 2007, six months before The Blackstone Group (NYSE: BX ) went public. It takes a special kind of arrogance to take a company public at the peak of what was an industrywide and well-known bubble -- especially for a company focused on the virtues of not being a public company.
OK, maybe not arrogance, but brazenness, yes. If there's any remaining doubt that Blackstone's 2007 IPO was nothing more than a way for senior management to cash out spectacular personal fortunes on a (spectacularly gullible) public market giddy with credit euphoria, the above quote depicting the industry's true feelings should seal the deal.
Reports that the company swung a quarterly loss of $415 million, or $1.52 per share, didn't help, either. Revenue for the quarter was negative $611.3 million, thanks to losses on existing investments. Blackstone also eliminated its dividend for the fourth quarter, which was one of the only things investors were hanging onto, now that the company predicts it'll produce GAAP losses for years to come while digesting IPO compensation charges.
If there's one ray of hope for Blackstone, it's that this mangled economy is undoubtedly producing abundant opportunities for investors eager and willing to scoop up bargain companies at distressed prices.
The major roadblock to this possibility bearing fruit: The banks that supplied credit in recent years to make major deals possible -- banks like Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) , Citigroup (NYSE: C ) , and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) -- have had about as much private equity fun as they can handle. Furthermore, the investors lured in by private equity funds in recent years with the promise of outsized returns have either been thoroughly burned, or don't have the appetite to take any more risk.
Bottom line: Despite future opportunity, this industry's true glory days are done.
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