THE financial crisis a decade ago brought the glory days of private equity to a screeching halt. The debt-fuelled megadeals on which the industry had built its fame (or notoriety) seemed over. But on January 30th a group of investors led by Blackstone, the world’s largest private-equity firm, announced a $17bn deal to carve out Thomson Reuters’ financial and risk business (F&R), a financial-data provider. The deal would be Blackstone’s largest since the crisis. But if the megadeal is making a comeback, it is in a new guise.

In the mid-2000s, huge transactions abounded. Deals from 2006 and 2007 alone account for nine of the ten largest ever. But, looking purely at value, the only true drought in big deals was from 2008-12. Every year since 2013 has seen at least one buy-out of more than $10bn, according to the private-equity database of Thomson Reuters F&R itself.

But in many of these deals private-equity firms have taken the unfamiliar role of companions to corporate acquirers. In a $23.5bn deal in 2013 to acquire Heinz, Berkshire Hathaway, a conglomerate, split ownership equally with 3G Capital, a Brazilian private-equity firm. Even private-equity led acquisitions are today much more likely to involve institutional investors or corporations, rather than other private-equity firms. The consortium that Bain Capital cobbled together last year...Continue reading