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April 20, 2023  |  27 Minute Read

Daniel Murphy

Head of Portfolio Solutions for Alternatives Capital Markets and Strategy

Daniel Murphy

James Gelfer

Portfolio Solutions for Alternatives Capital Markets and Strategy

James Gelfer

Juliana Hadas

Portfolio Solutions for Alternatives Capital Markets and Strategy

Juliana Hadas

Key Takeaways

  • Investors are contending with disruptive developments across three modulations – the sentiment cycle, the business cycle, and the secular trends that transcend cycles. A risk-based framework can be helpful in translating these developments into actionable portfolio strategies.
  • Attractive opportunities differ across economic scenarios; diversifying a portfolio across risks likely to be well compensated in different states of the world has the potential to mitigate the impact of an uncertain future.
  • Across different scenarios and asset classes, the overarching themes are transformation, duration, and execution.

An inflection point in the business cycle, against a background of a profoundly changing world order, makes for a dynamic environment for today’s investors.  Investors are contending with disruptive developments across three modulations – the sentiment cycle, the business cycle, and the secular trends that transcend cycles.  A risk-based framework can be helpful in translating these developments into actionable portfolio strategies. For private markets investors, the endeavor is two-fold: evaluating the outlook for existing portfolios and determining the strategy for deploying new capital.  Identifying the key risks to monitor can be instrumental in understanding vulnerabilities that may be embedded in current positions.  Identifying which risks are most likely to be attractively compensated, and which risks to mitigate, can be a useful tool for setting the strategy going forward. 



The Three Modulations


Source: Goldman Sachs Asset Management.



The Three Modulations


Watch the Spin


The sentiment cycle reflects evolving investor risk posture and outlook as market participants digest short-term economic movements. Private market assets are largely insulated from the day-to-day sentiment gyrations, but a view across months or quarters can highlight opportunities and challenges of market dislocations. Furthermore, sentiment impacts the broader portfolio and drives both denominator and numerator effects, the former via changing market values in different parts of the portfolio, the latter via changes in the pacing of distributions and capital calls.


Today, a combination of declines in public market asset valuations and a slower pace of distributions from mature private funds have led to a growing number of Limited Partners (LPs) being over-allocated to private markets. However, the vast majority intend to stay the course, increasing or maintaining their long-term allocations to the asset class. Many LPs are therefore coming to the secondary markets to generate liquidity and capital capacity to invest in new vintages and adjust strategic allocations. General Partners (GPs), likewise, are looking for solutions to extend the duration of attractive investments that they hesitate to exit in a challenging market. In this environment, secondaries investors are well-positioned to capitalize on being a provider of liquidity and solutions capital.



A New Rotation


The business cycle evolves across multi-year periods and is driven by macroeconomic developments. Private ownership of companies and assets can facilitate dynamic adaptation to meaningful changes in the outlook for GDP, inflation and rates. GPs may adapt their strategies for managing existing portfolios and pursuing new investments. LPs can tilt their annual commitment approach via strategy tilts and manager style preferences. This modulation will be the focus of this piece.



The Big Wheel


Secular trends are decade-plus developments that are likely to shape the world: deglobalization, changing demographics, digitization, decarbonization, and destabilization of the world order. The momentum of these secular trends transcends the business cycle. The long-term nature of private markets enables investors to capture opportunities presented by these trends by setting a strategic direction for the portfolio and identifying the key characteristics of success for a manager.



A New Rotation: The Business Cycle


Our base-case scenario draws on the views of the Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research macroeconomics team and reflects the structural challenges and opportunities of an evolving world order. We anticipate the upcoming years to experience positive but muted real GDP growth, inflation higher than the past decade’s but generally moderate and well-managed (although with pockets of the economy potentially experiencing periods of high inflation), and interest rates stabilizing at moderately higher levels than the prior decade. We recognize, however, that experiences will differ by region.


Acknowledging the uncertainty inherent in any forecasting exercise, we consider two other potential scenarios. Our upside case assumes robust real GDP growth and moderate, well-managed inflation that should nonetheless be structurally higher than the last decade. This combination would lead to stable but moderately higher interest rates. While more optimistic, this scenario acknowledges that the experience of the last decade is unlikely to be repeated. The structural headwinds arising from the secular trends noted earlier will continue to impact the world, but our upside case assumes that innovation and adaptability will enable the economy to successfully address them.


Our downside case assumes that the structural challenges will exceed society’s ability to innovate to address them. In this scenario, real GDP growth is flat to negative, inflation is higher and volatile, and interest rates are rising as policymakers aim to control inflation.


Each scenario may call for a different approach to future commitments, whether via strategy tilts or GP characteristics to emphasize in manager selection. Diversifying a private markets portfolio across attractive opportunities in different states of the world can be one way to mitigate the impacts of an uncertain future.



Existing Investments: Risks To Monitor


The private equity ownership structure may be advantaged in a challenging macroeconomic environment, given its long-term orientation, track record of value creation in excess of public companies,1 and ability to support companies in a downturn – which academic studies have found can lead to a lower cost of distress.2 To date, private equity-owned companies have continued to outperform their public peers as macro headwinds have mounted. According to Burgiss data, as of 3Q 2022, the median private equity-owned company experienced 19% year-over-year revenue growth and 12% EBITDA growth. This compares to 10% and 7%, respectively, for the median S&P 500 company.3 However, private equity companies are not immune from business cycle challenges. Operating margin pressures are one example: 2022 was the first year in which median EBITDA growth failed to keep pace with, or exceed, median revenue growth in over a decade. These pressures are likely to continue. Private equity portfolio managers are noting that in various sectors, their companies’ customers have limited ability to absorb further price increases, having absorbed much in 2022. A shift in the composition of higher costs may be exacerbating this dynamic as well. Over the course of 2022, cost pressures were coming from a mix of raw material and wage pressures; today, a greater portion is coming from wage pressures for many companies. Companies are finding that customers are more willing to absorb higher material costs, which are more visible to them, than higher labor costs, which may not be as obvious. As such, companies are approaching the point at which further price increases can impact demand.


Rising interest rates are contributing to cash flow pressures. Their impact can be estimated by considering a hypothetical leveraged buyout (LBO) deal structured in line with average 2020/2021 industry terms. Such a company would have seen its pre-tax operating cash flows decline by over 30%, and interest coverage ratio cut by over 40% due to rising rates. Neutralizing the effect on cash flows would require over 20% EBITDA growth. Many private equity-owned companies have been able to achieve that last year – the top-quartile company in the Burgiss universe grew EBITDA by over 40% year over year. And the median company, at 12% EBITDA growth, would have experienced a 15% decline in pre-tax operating cash flows and a 1x decline in interest coverage – to a still-healthy 2.0x. However, the third-quartile company in the Burgiss universe experienced a 12% EBITDA decline – a result that would have cut cash flows by half and decreased interest coverage to 1.6x when coupled with higher debt costs.


When buyout multiples reached new highs in the mid-to-late 2010s, private equity managers began noting that they were underwriting to assumptions of multiple contraction on exit and predicated their valuation theses on fundamental value creation. Yet multiples continued rising. This reflected public market dynamics, a shift towards higher-growth sectors, and, in some cases, overly optimistic value creation assumptions. Lenders were willing to underwrite robust value creation assumptions as well. As we covered in "Preparing for the Rising Tide of Rates,” EBITDA addbacks averaged 25-30% of pro forma EBITDA for deals signed in 2015-2020,4 much of that in expected cost savings – but cost savings can be particularly hard to achieve amidst heightened inflation. Over the next several years, instances of overly optimistic underwriting will likely become clear, with value creation plans that rely on margin expansion, rather than top-line growth, particularly challenged.


A company underwritten to the average addback and unable to realize this assumed improvement would see its pre-tax operating cash flows decline by over 60% due to EBITDA and interest rate effects, while its interest coverage ratio would have dropped to 1.3x. The company would still be able to cover its debt service, but would have little room for operational missteps or further interest rate increases – at a time when corporate margins seem primed for a downturn while interest rates may rise further, albeit at a slower pace. The company would also have little resources for growth initiatives, and its ability to repay its debt upon maturity comes into question. Refinancing activity has pushed out the maturity wall, but nonetheless, almost $300 billion of loans is currently scheduled to come due in the next three years.5 With around $10 billion due this year, few credits are currently stressed. However, rating agencies are anticipating default rates to rise through 2023 and 2024 to the longer-term average of 3-4%. Novel rescue financing structures implemented in the immediate aftermath of COVID-19 are introducing additional complexity for distressed lenders to navigate.



Economic Headwinds and Rising Rates May Pressure Some Borrowers’ Ability To Service Debt


Source: Goldman Sachs Asset Management. For illustrative purposes only. Original deal term reflects aggregate LBO industry statistics as of 2021 for EBITDA multiples, leverage used and SOFR floor amounts (source: LCD) and a spread on private credit sourced from the KBRA database. Impact of rising rates reflects SOFR as of 3/1/2023 (4.5%) vs. 12/31/2021 (floor: 0.50%), (source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York). Past performance is not indicative of future results.



Aggregate industry-level data suggest that dealmaking approaches are now starting to change, with the challenging environment having forced the hand of some GPs. Deals have become smaller, with more conservative capital structures – according to KBRA data, the average buyout is using 1.4x less turn of leverage. The average deal size has declined, as lenders are cautious about financing large acquisitions. Buy-and-build strategies are increasingly in favor, due to both a lower average entry multiple and more straightforward value creation strategies. Financial sponsors are more measured in their deployment pace, focusing on the highest-quality deals and walking away when the sellers’ pricing expectations diverge from their own. All this has contributed to meaningful declines in deal volumes.


Over time, deal volume will return – GPs have incentive to deploy their dry powder. In monitoring the implications of dry powder, we believe risk lies less in absolute levels of dry powder and more in its age, since pressure to deploy is felt most acutely toward the end of the investment period. A recent academic study has found that deals executed by funds with high amounts of dry powder toward the end of the investment period tend to be larger, more expensive, and less levered – and to display significantly lower returns than other deals.6 Today, funds that are 3-5 years old, and most likely to feel pressure to deploy, account for around 40% of total dry powder. Some of this dry powder is being held in reserve, to fortify existing portfolio companies and, especially in venture capital and growth strategies, to invest in follow-on deals in portfolio companies that are on attractive trajectories. When used prudently, this approach creates value. In other cases, it merely forestalls the decline.


In aggregate, we anticipate that overall returns for recent vintages should be lower than what was underwritten to. MOICs would be impacted by the overall value realized in investments; IRRs would be further impacted by a potentially longer average investment duration as funds avoid selling attractive assets in a less hospitable environment. However, there should be a greater degree of dispersion across funds than has been the case in the past. A comparison of returns in the most recent quarter with that of three years ago shows that dispersion is already increasing for funds whose value is still largely unrealized.



Dispersion Widening Has Already Started


Source: Cambridge Associates, data through 2Q 2022. Past performance is not indicative of future results.


On the real asset side, our colleagues have previously written about the ways in which different real estate sectors, geographies, and assets may fare differently given higher inflation, slower growth, rising rates, and long-term secular trends. In infrastructure, too, much depends on individual asset quality, sectors, and geographies – as previously discussed in the article "Infrastructure in Inflation: The Coming Dispersion”. Similar to the case in private equity, infrastructure GPs are noting limits to their ability to pass on rising costs in certain sectors. This may be a bigger factor for businesses whose cost structures are meaningfully different from the components of the PPI index, which typically drives revenue escalators. More labor-intensive businesses and new construction are seeing greater margin pressure than less labor-intensive businesses. These dynamics are likely to support pricing of existing assets.


Office and retail sectors are particularly vulnerable to liquidity imbalances. A CBRE analysis projects a $53 billion funding gap for office properties and a further $3.5 billion for retail properties over the next 3 years,7 as loans mature amidst declining equity values and a dearth of available financing. With around $1.1 trillion in commercial real estate loans likely to require refinancing or maturity extensions in 2023-2024, asset owners may experience more stress, in some cases opting for strategic defaults. This is particularly true for those with unhedged floating-rate exposure which, similar to corporate assets, is leading to rising interest costs that can create cash flow issues for some asset owners.


Over the long term, however, the outlook for these sectors may not be clear-cut – supporting a thoughtfully executed opportunistic approach. While the current situation reflects disruption of the “traditional wisdom”, we also caution about assuming that today’s “new wisdom” will continue unabated. For instance, many large companies have been able to bring employees into the office on at least a partial basis. However, the office of the next decade will likely look different than that of the last decade. Digital enablement and sustainability are becoming more highly valued. In Manhattan, for example, visits to Class A+ office buildings are two-thirds of the way back to their pre-COVID 19 levels, while visits to Class B buildings are just over half-way back.8 Demand for specialized office space for sectors such as life sciences should continue to grow, and more office properties may be developed in the tier 2 cities that experienced net migration – perhaps the best way to bring workers back into the office is to bring the office closer to them. Similarly, the “new wisdom” of e-commerce supplanting brick and mortar retail may be a more muted trend than currently assumed. While e-commerce should continue to grow, some online-native direct-to-consumer companies are beginning to appreciate the value of a physical presence for marketing and customer acquisition.


With the scope of infrastructure evolving towards digital enablement, some infrastructure GPs have taken on equity-like exposure, with more product risk, to keep pace with broader market beta. This may have been a tailwind over the past several years but a headwind today. As such, greater performance dispersion is likely in real assets as well.




New Commitments: Risks Likely To Be Compensated, Risks To Mitigate



Institutional investors are largely maintaining their strategic commitments to the private markets – but staying the course does not mean a static portfolio. Opportunities exist to tactically tilt commitments across strategies and to sharpen focus on the approach to manager selection. For investors considering such approaches to new commitments, we lay out which risks we believe are likely to be compensated in each of our three scenarios, and which risks to mitigate.



Private Equity



Risk Likely to be Compensated: Transformation


Whether enhancing digital capabilities, introducing sustainable approaches, or repositioning the company for a changed world, transformation should be at the core of the private equity value creation thesis. This becomes even more critical given our expectations of lower return contributions from two other LBO value creation levers: multiple expansion and leverage. Opportunities for transformation transcend sectors or regions. A recent Bain study9 has found that performance varies more across private equity-backed companies within a sector than they do across sectors – illustrating the impact of operational value creation. In our view, new investment should be predicated on a revenue growth strategy, not solely margin enhancement, as top line growth is the main driver of long-term value. In a scenario of muted overall growth, a company can exceed that trajectory by gaining market share or raising prices above market. These approaches call for a superior product and customer experience, and a robust, data-driven pricing strategy.


This growth should be supported by a disciplined cost structure and attractive unit scale economics, to enable companies to grow in a capital-efficient manner. We believe that capital efficiency will become more important in the years ahead, given our expectations of a structurally higher cost of capital.


Valuation discipline is also crucial, and sourcing strategies may need to adapt to prioritize areas where entry valuations may be more attractive. Buy-and-build strategies generally feature a lower blended average entry multiple in addition to a clearer path to value creation. Public-to-private strategies may be a fruitful sourcing channel, as large corporations divest noncore assets in an effort to streamline their businesses for efficiency and resource optimization in a higher cost of capital environment. Strategic solutions may come to the fore as well. For instance, company owners may be interested in structured transactions that combine elements of credit and equity, avoiding triggering a change-of-control provision that would necessitate refinancing debt at higher rates than the original financing. Venture capital and growth strategies have seen a slowdown in deal flow, but we believe this will prove to be temporary. Numerous prominent companies were started during prior economic downturns, and we believe this cycle should be no different. GPs who can add value to their portfolio companies should continue to see demand for capital from promising entrepreneurs. Alongside growth initiatives, the economics of scaling portfolio companies should come into more focus in the decade ahead.



Risk to Mitigate: Operational Risk


The success of a transformation strategy relies on execution expertise. LPs should seek out GPs with a proven ability to grow and create value in portfolio companies, investment discipline in terms of both investment pacing and valuations, and a culture of continuous skillset enhancement to be able to adapt value creation strategies to an environment in which understanding technology, geopolitics, and the evolving customer preferences becomes more important than ever. A focus on select economies or geographies may mitigate macroeconomic and geopolitical risks outside the investor’s scope of control.




Risk Likely to be Compensated: Moonshots


Many of the world’s challenges require new sophisticated technologies, bold ideas, and innovative solutions. These solutions are likely to be more capital intensive than the innovations of the last decade, as they are likely to involve a larger component of physical presence. For instance, robotic innovations to address a declining labor force in countries with aging populations would have greater physical asset requirements than software-based solutions for faster flow of information. Such breakthrough ideas may find a more supportive adoption and funding environment in the upside scenario, as here investors may have the greatest optimism and appetite for product risk. Sustainability solutions may also find the greatest adoption in this scenario despite initially higher cost curves, as willingness to pay a premium is highest when the underlying customer’s financial health is at its best. It is also likely that the path to the upside scenario, with its more robust growth and muted inflation despite the pressures of aging populations, deglobalized supply chains, and climate change, would be driven by successful moonshots. Rechargeable EV batteries, battery recycling and fusion energy are examples of moonshots – technologies that, if and when commercialized in an economically feasible manner, have the potential to transform sustainability efforts. Capital is needed to develop and manufacture these solutions, as well as many others that may not yet be on investors’ radars.



Risk to Mitigate: Lax Discipline


Amidst broad-based optimism that would characterize an upside economic scenario, valuation and pacing discipline continues to be important for successful investing, as well as a grounding in reality. History offers plenty of examples where the perceived potential or pace of technological development exceeded the foreseeable reality, leading to a herd-like investor mentality. The path to commercial success may be long, but it must be feasible and allow for attractive base-case returns.




Risk Likely to be Compensated: Defensive Posture


In this scenario, low growth and high inflation may mean that upside is generally limited, and the risk/return asymmetry is to the downside. As such, trading off upside risk for downside mitigation may be a smart bet. Companies may increasingly turn to hybrid financing to avoid outright sale or appearance of value diminution; investors, too, may choose to trade off some upside in return for downside mitigation. With a more risk-off posture, less financing might be available for large capital-intensive projects whose growth and efficiency benefits are years away. As such, costs are likely to be structurally higher, and cost mitigation strategies more important. Private equity portfolios may become more concentrated, as GPs optimize their limited resources with a focus on the most promising opportunities.



Risk to Mitigate: Entrenchment


Efficiency and cost mitigation strategies are important in a low-growth, high-cost environment. However, if new opportunities and growth initiatives are de-prioritized, upside potential will be limited. In our view, the best outcomes would result from a balance of efficiency and growth initiatives, and investors should avoid GPs that prioritize the former at the expense of the latter.



Private Credit



Risk Likely to be Compensated: Financing Risk


With growth and return on capital low, and the cost of debt higher, senior credit may accrue a greater share of total value than other parts of the capital structure. Private senior lenders are already experiencing robust demand from high-quality borrowers, while underwriting at more conservative valuations and capital structures than recent history. As the current dislocation resolves, mergers & acquisitions (M&A) and corporate divestiture activity resumes, and public financing returns, the negotiating position between lenders and owners should be more balanced; however, we believe leveraged buyout (LBO) sponsors will continue to turn to private credit to benefit from its certainty of execution, flexibility, and ability to manage complexity.


With defaults muted in this scenario, fund-level leverage of senior or unitranche credit can enhance returns. However, when using fund-level leverage, investors must consider that risk is asymmetric to the downside, given that performing credit returns are driven by repayment of obligations and amortization of the original issue discount.



Risk to Mitigate: Credit Risk


A muted economic environment leaves less room for operational stumbles, making credit selection critical. It also means that risk/return tradeoffs across the capital structure should be considered carefully, with potential defaults impacting junior credit first. With senior credit benefitting from higher base rates and wider spreads in our base scenario, the increased yield from moving down the seniority spectrum may not be worth the higher risk.




Risk Likely to be Compensated: Credit Risk


A robust economy would increase the likelihood of full value realization across credit tranches and enhance the value of upside participation structures – such as warrants – that mezzanine and other junior instruments typically use to enhance returns. Taking credit risk is therefore likely to be most prudent in this scenario. The mezzanine opportunity set is likely to be robust in this scenario, as a strong M&A and LBO market enhances demand for this financing.


Diversifying outside corporate lending is also most prudent in a strong macroeconomic environment. Lending to consumers – typically the most economically sensitive segment – is least risky in this environment. Specialty finance can be an effective portfolio completion tool, provided the investors has access to lenders with the ability to price and structure complex assets. The complexity of pledging intangible assets, such as intellectual property, as collateral lie in the challenges of proper risk assessment, as well as the long timeframe for some intangibles to translate to sales. However, for sophisticated underwriters with the requisite valuation skills and tools, this opportunity, unique to private markets, can be a compensated risk.



Risk to Mitigate: Refinancing Risk


When a company is acquired or publicly listed, its debt is typically refinanced. In a robust M&A and IPO environment, the result is a credit portfolio with a lower duration than had been underwritten to, implying a lower MOIC despite no downward pressure on the IRR. Investors should calibrate their duration and cash flow expectations to reflect this dynamic.




Risk Likely to be Compensated: Barbell Exposure


In a volatile, uncertain economy, a two-pronged strategy may be worth pursuing. Downside mitigation can be sought via senior, unlevered corporate and real asset credit. Investors may choose to tilt a bit more to the latter than would be the case in the base case scenario – backed by tangible assets, real asset credit may provide a more resilient form of collateral. When public markets struggle with uncertainty, syndicated lending becomes less assured, and the value of certainty of pricing and execution offered by private credit may be reflected in pricing power. With new origination likely curtailed, new opportunities for private credit strategies may come from purchasing existing loans, potentially at an attractive discount. At the same time, more companies may experience distress, creating a rich opportunity set for opportunistic, distressed and special situations managers.



Risk to Mitigate: Inexperience


Distinct skillsets are required from managers underwriting at opposite ends of the credit spectrum, but financial, structuring, and legal expertise are critical given the higher probability of distress in this scenario. GPs with experience through full market cycles are more likely to successfully navigate defaulted credits and execute workouts to reach successful outcomes for their investors.



Private Real Assets



Risk Likely to be Compensated: Transformation


For real estate, our base case scenario may be optimal – moderate growth with some inflation keeps supply in check, supporting pricing on existing properties, while reasonable interest rates support asset values overall. In infrastructure, some sectors are fragmented across many players, with a number of smaller companies poorly positioned to pass along inflation to their customers. These sectors may lend themselves to buy-and-build strategies. Digital fiber is an example of a sector in which a platform strategy today can be executed at a meaningfully lower overall valuation than acquiring a single large asset.


Similar to the case for corporate assets, value creation in real assets relies on transformation. Real assets stand well-positioned to capitalize on secular mega-trends. Reshoring of supply chains creates opportunity for warehouses and logistics – a dynamic that the auto sector is already benefitting from. Demographic trends present opportunities around life sciences real estate, student housing, and senior living facilities. Sustainability is most easily expressed in this asset class, by developing and repositioning properties to be more sustainable and developing infrastructure assets around the electrification theme. Today’s dislocations may present attractive opportunities for opportunistic investors to acquire dislocated assets and enhance their long-term value through sustainability and digital initiatives. New opportunities are being created in forestry, sustainable timber, and agriculture. However, the sustainability landscape is becoming more complex, with a growing number of solutions, technologies, and regulations. This makes for the importance of a thoughtful operational strategy and expertise.


Risk to Mitigate: Evolving Externalities


An evolving geopolitical environment is a critical externality to mitigate in real asset investing. Political sensitivities may impact assets that cater to international trade patterns if established relationships shift. Assets that rely on price escalators would be sensitive to any regulations capping their pricing power – which is more likely in politically sensitive sectors such as energy. Because of the immovable nature of most real assets, accessing the correct local expression of the global trend is critical to success.


Climate risk is another externality that may be of particular importance to real assets. Some obvious examples are properties near coasts, as well as ports – which, by definition, are built at sea level. Some types of infrastructure assets have also proven susceptible to extreme heat and cold temperatures, which are becoming more common.




Risk Likely to be Compensated: Longer Duration


Similar to corporate assets, the upside case may prove to be attractive for moonshot ideas – transformative, resource-intensive initiatives, with an emphasis on sustainability and digitization solutions. Valuations and lower capital costs in this scenario should be supportive of longer duration, value-add and opportunistic transformational projects. A broad spectrum of sustainability solutions may find the most eager customer adoption in this scenario. Infrastructure for electric vehicle battery storage and recycling needs manufacturing capacity. A reshoring of supply chains needs significant investment in near-shoring facilities. Going further out on the risk spectrum may also be prudent from a capital competition perspective. In an upside economic scenario, government finances may permit greater investment into infrastructure projects. With public financing typically focused on core assets, private investors may face increased competition in this end of the spectrum. The market may be more attractive, therefore, in value-add or opportunistic areas.


Risk to Mitigate: Strategy Drift


As the scope of real asset investing is redefined with an emphasis on digital, e-commerce logistics, and sustainability, investments will increasingly sit at an intersection of real estate and infrastructure. Furthermore, some opportunities in sustainability and digital enablement may overlap with growth equity. For real asset investors, it is important to maintain the discipline to pursue opportunities with real asset characteristics, rather than leaning primarily into technology risk in this portion of the portfolio. In infrastructure, for instance, these characteristics include asset intensity, functions critical to society, contractual cash flows, limited competition and inelastic demand. It behooves LPs to understand the underlying exposures in their private markets investments to ensure balance and desired exposures at the overall portfolio level.




Risk Likely to be Compensated: Shorter Duration


In this scenario, investors may find a focus on core real assets to be advantageous. With shorter duration and cash yield being more valuable in a volatile, rising-rate environment, core assets and structured investments may offer compelling risk-adjusted opportunities. Real assets can perform relatively well due to their inflation mitigation and defensive positioning. Public financing may be strained as budget priorities shift, creating more demand for private financing of core assets.


At the same time, the market may see more opportunities in stressed situations, as rising rates and operating costs stress select assets under development. Similar to private credit, a barbell approach between core and opportunistic may be an interesting way to invest in this environment. Structured investments that give up control in return for yield with some upside may be attractive in this scenario.



Risk to Mitigate: Capital Structure Risk


In this scenario, assets are most vulnerable to rising financing and operating costs. With much real asset financing being floating-rate, maintaining prudent leverage levels becomes critical.



Overarching Themes


Across the various scenarios and strategies, three common themes emerge.



This can take different expressions across different scenarios – from buy-and-build platform approaches as an intuitive way to build value, to extreme transformation of entire industries via moonshots, to transforming the portfolio by adding new, emerging, diversifying sources of returns that may become risks well compensated in particular environments.



Different scenarios call for different durations. For asset owners, more constructive markets may call for extending duration, accessing opportunities with longer-dated cash flows that may revolutionize critical industries and sectors. Private markets, which are structurally set up as long-term, patient capital, may be particularly well suited for long-duration investments. A downside case calls for mitigating duration risk. Conversely, for lenders, a too-short duration becomes a downside risk when the macroeconomic environment is at its healthiest.



Across strategies and scenarios, the key risk to mitigate is execution. This risk may take the form of an inability to create sufficient value in the underlying portfolio companies or assets, whether by failure to execute, complacency, inadequately ambitious growth plans, or an inability to properly manage around new and evolving risks. It may take the form of a lack of expertise in navigating stressed and complex situations. Lax valuation and capital deployment discipline are also forms of execution risk. For LPs, mitigating these risks requires an analytical approach to manager selection. LPs must go beyond past track records and the stories told by GPs, to select partners with a proven history of value creation and the ability to adapt to a changing environment. At the LP portfolio level, a further execution risk is that underlying exposures may end up different from those intended at commitment, due to strategy drift by its GPs. Portfolio monitoring must go beyond fund and strategy labels to better understand underlying portfolio exposures and be able to detect drifts and unintended concentrations in a world in which delineations between strategies are no longer as clear.




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1 See, for instance: Andrea Auerbach, Keirsten Lawton, Caryn Slotsky, “US Private Equity Looking Back, Looking Forward: Ten Years of CA Operating Metrics,” Cambridge Associates, As of November 2022.

2 See, for instance, Haque, Sharjil, “Does Private Equity Systematically Over-Lever Portfolio Companies?”, July 30, 2021; and Belyakov, Alexander, “Economics of Leveraged Buyouts: Theory and Evidence from the UK Private Equity Industry.” As of March 19, 2020.

3 Burgiss (private equity data), Refinitiv (S&P 500 data). As of September 30, 2022. 

4 S&P Global Market Intelligence. As of February 8, 2022.

5 LCD. As of December 31, 2022.

6 Lambert, Marie and Scivoletto, Alexandre and Tykvova, Tereza, Agency Costs of Dry Powder in Private Equity Funds (January 31, 2022). Available at SSRN:

7 CBRE. As of December 2022. 

8, Building Classifications determined by REBNY with assistance from Newmark Research; Chart: Rahul Mukherjee/Axios

9 Or Skolnik, Nadim Malik, and Brenda Rainey, “Raising Sector Strategy to the Next Level.” Bain Capital. As of February 2022.



Dry powder refers to assets raised by private markets funds that has not yet been deployed. Private Equity (PE) refers to investments in the equity or debt of companies that are either not listed on public exchanges or are taken private shortly after they are acquired.

EBITDA is earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.

GDP is Gross Domestic Product 

Multiple on Invested Capital (“MOIC”) is a performance metric that compares the value generated by an investment relative to the amount invested

Private Credit refers to non-bank lending that is not issued or traded in public markets.

Real Assets describes investments into physical structures s, including real estate and infrastructure

Risk Considerations

All investing involves risk, including loss of principal.

Private equity investments are speculative, highly illiquid, involve a high degree of risk, have high fees and expenses that could reduce returns, and subject to the possibility of partial or total loss of fund capital; they are, therefore, intended for experienced and sophisticated long-term investors who can accept such risks.

Alternative Investments often engage in leverage and other investment practices that are extremely speculative and involve a high degree of risk. Such practices may increase the volatility of performance and the risk of investment loss, including the loss of the entire amount that is invested. There may be conflicts of interest relating to the Alternative Investment and its service providers, including Goldman Sachs and its affiliates. Similarly, interests in an Alternative Investment are highly illiquid and generally are not transferable without the consent of the sponsor, and applicable securities and tax laws will limit transfers.

Investors should also consider some of the potential risks of alternative investments:

Alternative Strategies. Alternative strategies often engage in leverage and other investment practices that are speculative and involve a high degree of risk. Such practices may increase the volatility of performance and the risk of investment loss, including the entire amount that is invested.

Manager experience. Manager risk includes those that exist within a manager’s organization, investment process or supporting systems and infrastructure. There is also a potential for fund-level risks that arise from the way in which a manager constructs and manages the fund.

Leverage. Leverage increases a fund’s sensitivity to market movements. Funds that use leverage can be expected to be more “volatile” than other funds that do not use leverage. This means if the investments a fund buys decrease in market value, the value of the fund’s shares will decrease by even more.

Counterparty risk. Alternative strategies often make significant use of over- the- counter (OTC) derivatives and therefore are subject to the risk that counterparties will not perform their obligations under such contracts.

Liquidity risk. Alternatives strategies may make investments that are illiquid or that may become less liquid in response to market developments. At times, a fund may be unable to sell certain of its illiquid investments without a substantial drop in price, if at all.

Valuation risk. There is risk that the values used by alternative strategies to price investments may be different from those used by other investors to price the same investments.

Infrastructure investments are susceptible to various factors that may negatively impact their businesses or operations, including regulatory compliance, rising interest costs in connection with capital construction, governmental constraints that impact publicly funded projects, the effects of general economic conditions, increased competition, commodity costs, energy policies, unfavorable tax laws or accounting policies and high leverage.

Alternative Investments - Hedge funds and other private investment funds (collectively, “Alternative Investments”) are subject to less regulation than other types of pooled investment vehicles such as mutual funds. Alternative Investments may impose significant fees, including incentive fees that are based upon a percentage of the realized and unrealized gains and an individual’s net returns may differ significantly from actual returns. Such fees may offset all or a significant portion of such Alternative Investment’s trading profits. Alternative Investments are not required to provide periodic pricing or valuation information. Investors may have limited rights with respect to their investments, including limited voting rights and participation in the management of such Alternative Investments.

Investments in real estate companies, including REITs or similar structures are subject to volatility and additional risk, including loss in value due to poor management, lowered credit ratings and other factors.

Alternative investments are suitable only for sophisticated investors for whom such investments do not constitute a complete investment program and who fully understand and are willing to assume the risks involved in Alternative Investments. Alternative Investments by their nature, involve a substantial degree of risk, including the risk of total loss of an investor’s capital.

The above are not an exhaustive list of potential risks. There may be additional risks that are not currently foreseen or considered.

Conflicts of Interest 

There may be conflicts of interest relating to the Alternative Investment and its service providers, including Goldman Sachs and its affiliates. These activities and interests include potential multiple advisory, transactional and other interests in securities and instruments that may be purchased or sold by the Alternative Investment. These are considerations of which investors should be aware and additional information relating to these conflicts is set forth in the offering materials for the Alternative Investment. A fund, underlying funds, and/or portfolio assets may utilize leverage which could have significant adverse consequences. In particular, a fund will lose its investment in a leveraged portfolio investment more quickly than a non-leveraged portfolio investment if the portfolio investment declines in value. Money borrowed for the purpose of leveraging investments will also be subject to interest costs as well as financing, transaction and other fees and costs that may not be recovered. You should understand fully the risks associated with the use of leverage before making an investment in a fund.

General Disclosures

Diversification does not protect an investor from market risk and does not ensure a profit.

Goldman Sachs does not provide legal, tax or accounting advice, unless explicitly agreed between you and Goldman Sachs (generally through certain services offered only to clients of Private Wealth Management). Any statement contained in this presentation concerning U.S. tax matters is not intended or written to be used and cannot be used for the purpose of avoiding penalties imposed on the relevant taxpayer. Notwithstanding anything in this document to the contrary, and except as required to enable compliance with applicable securities law, you may disclose to any person the US federal and state income tax treatment and tax structure of the transaction and all materials of any kind (including tax opinions and other tax analyses) that are provided to you relating to such tax treatment and tax structure, without Goldman Sachs imposing any limitation of any kind. Investors should be aware that a determination of the tax consequences to them should take into account their specific circumstances and that the tax law is subject to change in the future or retroactively and investors are strongly urged to consult with their own tax advisor regarding any potential strategy, investment or transaction.

The views expressed herein are as March 28, 2023 and subject to change in the future. Individual portfolio management teams for Goldman Sachs Asset Management may have views and opinions and/or make investment decisions that, in certain instances, may not always be consistent with the views and opinions expressed herein.

Views and opinions expressed are for informational purposes only and do not constitute a recommendation by Goldman Sachs Asset Management to buy, sell, or hold any security, they should not be construed as investment advice.

Past performance does not guarantee future results, which may vary. The value of investments and the income derived from investments will fluctuate and can go down as well as up. A loss of principal may occur.


Prospective investors should inform themselves as to any applicable legal requirements and taxation and exchange control regulations in the countries of their citizenship, residence or domicile which might be relevant.

Examples are for illustrative purposes only and are not actual results. If any assumptions used do not prove to be true, results may vary substantially.

There is no guarantee that objectives will be met.

This information discusses general market activity, industry or sector trends, or other broad-based economic, market or political conditions and should not be construed as research or investment advice. This material has been prepared by Goldman Sachs Asset Management and is not financial research nor a product of Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research (GIR). It was not prepared in compliance with applicable provisions of law designed to promote the independence of financial analysis and is not subject to a prohibition on trading following the distribution of financial research. The views and opinions expressed may differ from those of Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research or other departments or divisions of Goldman Sachs and its affiliates. Investors are urged to consult with their financial advisors before buying or selling any securities. This information may not be current and Goldman Sachs Asset Management has no obligation to provide any updates or changes.


This material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as investment advice or an offer or solicitation to buy or sell securities. This material is not intended to be used as a general guide to investing, or as a source of any specific investment recommendations, and makes no implied or express recommendations concerning the manner in which any client’s account should or would be handled, as appropriate investment strategies depend upon the client’s investment objectives.

Economic and market forecasts presented herein reflect a series of assumptions and judgments as of the date of this presentation and are subject to change without notice. These forecasts do not take into account the specific investment objectives, restrictions, tax and financial situation or other needs of any specific client. Actual data will vary and may not be reflected here. These forecasts are subject to high levels of uncertainty that may affect actual performance. Accordingly, these forecasts should be viewed as merely representative of a broad range of possible outcomes. These forecasts are estimated, based on assumptions, and are subject to significant revision and may change materially as economic and market conditions change. Goldman Sachs has no obligation to provide updates or changes to these forecasts. Case studies and examples are for illustrative purposes only.

Although certain information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, we do not guarantee its accuracy, completeness or fairness. We have relied upon and assumed without independent verification, the accuracy and completeness of all information available from public sources.

References to indices, benchmarks or other measures of relative market performance over a specified period of time are provided for your information only and do not imply that the portfolio will achieve similar results. The index composition may not reflect the manner in which a portfolio is constructed. While an adviser seeks to design a portfolio which reflects appropriate risk and return features, portfolio characteristics may deviate from those of the benchmark.

The opinions expressed in this white paper are those of the authors, and not necessarily of Goldman Sachs. Any investments or returns discussed in this paper do not represent any Goldman Sachs product. This white paper makes no implied or express recommendations concerning how a client’s account should be managed. This white paper is not intended to be used as a general guide to investing or as a source of any specific investment recommendations.

This material represents the views of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. It is not financial research or a product of Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research (GIR). It was not a product nor financial research of Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research (GIR). It was not prepared in compliance with applicable provisions of law designed to promote the independence of financial analysis and is not subject to a prohibition on trading following the distribution of financial research. The views and opinions expressed herein may vary significantly from those expressed by GIR or any other groups at Goldman Sachs. Investors are urged to consult with their financial advisers before buying or selling any securities. The information contained herein should not be relied upon in making an investment decision or be construed as investment advice. Goldman Sachs Asset Management has no obligation to provide any updates or changes.

United Kingdom: In the United Kingdom, this material is a financial promotion and has been approved by Goldman Sachs Asset Management International, which is authorized and regulated in the United Kingdom by the Financial Conduct Authority.

European Economic Area (EEA):This material is a financial promotion disseminated by Goldman Sachs Bank Europe SE, including through its authorised branches ("GSBE"). GSBE is a credit institution incorporated in Germany and, within the Single Supervisory Mechanism established between those Member States of the European Union whose official currency is the Euro, subject to direct prudential supervision by the European Central Bank and in other respects supervised by German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufischt, BaFin) and Deutsche Bundesbank.

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Asia excluding Japan: Please note that neither Goldman Sachs Asset Management (Hong Kong) Limited (“GSAMHK”) or Goldman Sachs Asset Management (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. (Company Number: 201329851H ) (“GSAMS”) nor any other entities involved in the Goldman Sachs Asset Management business that provide this material and information maintain any licenses, authorizations or registrations in Asia (other than Japan), except that it conducts businesses (subject to applicable local regulations) in and from the following jurisdictions: Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, India and China. This material has been issued for use in or from Hong Kong by Goldman Sachs Asset Management (Hong Kong) Limited, in or from Singapore by Goldman Sachs Asset Management (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. (Company Number: 201329851H) and in or from Malaysia by Goldman Sachs (Malaysia) Sdn Berhad (880767W).

New Zealand: This material is distributed in New Zealand by Goldman Sachs Asset Management Australia Pty Ltd ABN 41 006 099 681, AFSL 228948 (’GSAMA’) and is intended for viewing only by wholesale clients in Australia for the purposes of section 761G of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) and to clients who either fall within any or all of the categories of investors set out in section 3(2) or sub-section 5(2CC) of the Securities Act 1978, fall within the definition of a wholesale client for the purposes of the Financial Service Providers (Registration and Dispute Resolution) Act 2008 (FSPA) and the Financial Advisers Act 2008 (FAA),and fall within the definition of a wholesale investor under one of clause 37, clause 38, clause 39 or clause 40 of Schedule 1 of the Financial Markets Conduct Act 2013 (FMCA) of New Zealand (collectively, a “NZ Wholesale Investor”). GSAMA is not a registered financial service provider under the FSPA. GSAMA does not have a place of business in New Zealand. In New Zealand, this document, and any access to it, is intended only for a person who has first satisfied GSAMA that the person is a NZ Wholesale Investor. This document is intended for viewing only by the intended recipient. This document may not be reproduced or distributed to any person in whole or in part without the prior written consent of GSAMA.

Australia: This material is distributed by Goldman Sachs Asset Management Australia Pty Ltd ABN 41 006 099 681, AFSL 228948 (‘GSAMA’) and is intended for viewing only by wholesale clients for the purposes of section 761G of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). This document may not be distributed to retail clients in Australia (as that term is defined in the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth)) or to the general public. This document may not be reproduced or distributed to any person without the prior consent of GSAMA. To the extent that this document contains any statement which may be considered to be financial product advice in Australia under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), that advice is intended to be given to the intended recipient of this document only, being a wholesale client for the purposes of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). Any advice provided in this document is provided by either of the following entities. They are exempt from the requirement to hold an Australian financial services licence under the Corporations Act of Australia and therefore do not hold any Australian Financial Services Licences, and are regulated under their respective laws applicable to their jurisdictions, which differ from Australian laws. Any financial services given to any person by these entities by distributing this document in Australia are provided to such persons pursuant to the respective ASIC Class Orders and ASIC Instrument mentioned below.

  • Goldman Sachs Asset Management, LP (GSAMLP), Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC (GSCo), pursuant ASIC Class Order 03/1100; regulated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission under US laws.
  • Goldman Sachs Asset Management International (GSAMI), Goldman Sachs International (GSI), pursuant to ASIC Class Order 03/1099; regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority; GSI is also authorized by the Prudential Regulation Authority, and both entities are under UK laws.
  • Goldman Sachs Asset Management (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. (GSAMS), pursuant to ASIC Class Order 03/1102; regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore under Singaporean laws
  • Goldman Sachs Asset Management (Hong Kong) Limited (GSAMHK), pursuant to ASIC Class Order 03/1103 and Goldman Sachs (Asia) LLC (GSALLC), pursuant to ASIC Instrument 04/0250; regulated by the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong under Hong Kong laws

No offer to acquire any interest in a fund or a financial product is being made to you in this document. If the interests or financial products do become available in the future, the offer may be arranged by GSAMA in accordance with section 911A(2)(b) of the Corporations Act. GSAMA holds Australian Financial Services Licence No. 228948. Any offer will only be made in circumstances where disclosure is not required under Part 6D.2 of the Corporations Act or a product disclosure statement is not required to be given under Part 7.9 of the Corporations Act (as relevant).

Canada: This presentation has been communicated in Canada by GSAM LP, which is registered as a portfolio manager under securities legislation in all provinces of Canada and as a commodity trading manager under the commodity futures legislation of Ontario and as a derivatives adviser under the derivatives legislation of Quebec. GSAM LP is not registered to provide investment advisory or portfolio management services in respect of exchange-traded futures or options contracts in Manitoba and is not offering to provide such investment advisory or portfolio management services in Manitoba by delivery of this material.

Japan: This material has been issued or approved in Japan for the use of professional investors defined in Article 2 paragraph (31) of the Financial Instruments and Exchange Law by Goldman Sachs Asset Management Co., Ltd.

South Africa: Goldman Sachs Asset Management International is authorised by the Financial Services Board of South Africa as a financial services provider.

Malaysia: This material is issued in or from Malaysia by Goldman Sachs (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd (880767W)

Hong Kong: This material has been issued or approved for use in or from Hong Kong by Goldman Sachs Asset Management (Hong Kong) Limited.

Singapore: This material has been issued or approved for use in or from Singapore by Goldman Sachs Asset Management (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. (Company Number: 201329851H).

Israel: This document has not been, and will not be, registered with or reviewed or approved by the Israel Securities Authority (ISA”). It is not for general circulation in Israel and may not be reproduced or used for any other purpose. Goldman Sachs Asset Management International is not licensed to provide investment advisory or management services in Israel.

Jordan: The document has not been presented to, or approved by, the Jordanian Securities Commission or the Board for Regulating Transactions in Foreign Exchanges.

Colombia: Esta presentación no tiene el propósito o el efecto de iniciar, directa o indirectamente, la adquisición de un producto a prestación de un servicio por parte de Goldman Sachs Asset Management a residentes colombianos. Los productos y/o servicios de Goldman Sachs Asset Management no podrán ser ofrecidos ni promocionados en Colombia o a residentes Colombianos a menos que dicha oferta y promoción se lleve a cabo en cumplimiento del Decreto 2555 de 2010 y las otras reglas y regulaciones aplicables en materia de promoción de productos y/o servicios financieros y /o del mercado de valores en Colombia o a residentes colombianos. Al recibir esta presentación, y en caso que se decida contactar a Goldman Sachs Asset Management, cada destinatario residente en Colombia reconoce y acepta que ha contactado a Goldman Sachs Asset Management por su propia iniciativa y no como resultado de cualquier promoción o publicidad por parte de Goldman Sachs Asset Management o cualquiera de sus agentes o representantes. Los residentes colombianos reconocen que (1) la recepción de esta presentación no constituye una solicitud de los productos y/o servicios de Goldman Sachs Asset Management, y (2) que no están recibiendo ninguna oferta o promoción directa o indirecta de productos y/o servicios financieros y/o del mercado de valores por parte de Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

Esta presentación es estrictamente privada y confidencial, y no podrá ser reproducida o utilizada para cualquier propósito diferente a la evaluación de una inversión potencial en los productos de Goldman Sachs Asset Management o la contratación de sus servicios por parte del destinatario de esta presentación, no podrá ser proporcionada a una persona diferente del destinatario de esta presentación.

United Kingdom: In the United Kingdom, this material is a financial promotion and has been approved by Goldman Sachs Asset Management International, which is authorized and regulated in the United Kingdom by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Bahrain: This material has not been reviewed by the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) and the CBB takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the statements or the information contained herein, or for the performance of the securities or related investment, nor shall the CBB have any liability to any person for damage or loss resulting from reliance on any statement or information contained herein. This material will not be issued, passed to, or made available to the public generally.

Kuwait: This material has not been approved for distribution in the State of Kuwait by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry or the Central Bank of Kuwait or any other relevant Kuwaiti government agency. The distribution of this material is, therefore, restricted in accordance with law no. 31 of 1990 and law no. 7 of 2010, as amended. No private or public offering of securities is being made in the State of Kuwait, and no agreement relating to the sale of any securities will be concluded in the State of Kuwait. No marketing, solicitation or inducement activities are being used to offer or market securities in the State of Kuwait.

Oman: The Capital Market Authority of the Sultanate of Oman (the "CMA") is not liable for the correctness or adequacy of information provided in this document or for identifying whether or not the services contemplated within this document are appropriate investment for a potential investor. The CMA shall also not be liable for any damage or loss resulting from reliance placed on the document.

Qatar This document has not been, and will not be, registered with or reviewed or approved by the Qatar Financial Markets Authority, the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority or Qatar Central Bank and may not be publicly distributed. It is not for general circulation in the State of Qatar and may not be reproduced or used for any other purpose.

Saudi Arabia: The Capital Market Authority does not make any representation as to the accuracy or completeness of this document, and expressly disclaims any liability whatsoever for any loss arising from, or incurred in reliance upon, any part of this document. If you do not understand the contents of this document you should consult an authorised financial adviser.

The CMA does not make any representation as to the accuracy or completeness of these materials, and expressly disclaims any liability whatsoever for any loss arising from, or incurred in reliance upon, any part of these materials. If you do not understand the contents of these materials, you should consult an authorised financial adviser.

United Arab Emirates: This document has not been approved by, or filed with the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates or the Securities and Commodities Authority. If you do not understand the contents of this document, you should consult with a financial advisor.

Date of First Use: April 20, 2023. 309882-OTU-1770384

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