Why do some companies decide not to sell shares on public exchanges? And who buys private equity? A Dictionary of Finance finds out

Private equity is an important market for small start-ups and for projects in developing countries. So A Dictionary of Finance podcast gathered three experts to tell us what kinds of companies sell private equity and who buys private equity.

Aglaé Touchard-Le Drian, senior investment officer in the European Investment Bank’s Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund, explains that “private equity represents non-listed shares in the ownership of a company.”

Non-listed, of course, means that the shares are not listed on a big stock exchange, like the London Stock Exchange. (You can find out more about listings on our episode about equity and debt.)

But what kind of company doesn’t want to be listed? And who’s investing with them?

Christine Panier, head of lower and midmarket investments for Western Europe at the European Investment Fund, says there are a range of companies or investments that want to make private sales. For smaller, growing companies, there are reasons to do with not “diluting” the original owners. They might want investment from a venture capitalist.

Other private equity deals might revolve around a leveraged buyout, in which debt and equity are used to take over a company. This is usually only when a company is worth at least EUR 100 million, Christine says.

We asked Paola Ravacchioli, senior investment officer in the EIB’s equity unit, about venture capital. “Venture capital is a kind of private equity,” Paola says. “It’s an investment in tech-enabled start-ups and SMEs.

Aglaé, Christine and Paola go on to tell us about incubators, accelerators and—our favourite ever term on A Dictionary of Finance—love money. Love money is an investment in a company that’s made by friends or relatives.

Let us know what you think of the episode on Twitter @EIBMatt or @AllarTankler.

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