PE firms play small ball

Contact: Brenon Daly

After years of writing multibillion-dollar checks in some of the largest tech transactions, private equity (PE) shops dramatically scaled back their purchases in 2011. The single biggest deal last year (The Blackstone Group’s $3bn take-private of healthcare technology vendor Emdeon) only ranked 15th among the largest transactions in 2011.

It was the first time PE firms haven’t have a hand in at least one of the year’s 10 largest deals since 2008. Even in the recession-wracked year of 2009, one buyout slotted into the top 10. And in 2010, when the economy appeared to be solidly recovering and the credit markets were more welcoming, PE firms accounted for fully three of the 10 largest transactions of that year. But last year, the buyout barons were overwhelmed by their corporate rivals, who are flush with cash.