What are secondaries in private equity?

What are secondaries in private equity?

What are secondaries in private equity?



In the world of private equity, secondaries play a significant role. Secondaries refer to the buying and selling of pre-existing investor commitments in private equity funds. These transactions involve the transfer of limited partnership interests from one investor to another. Secondaries have gained prominence in recent years as a distinct asset class within the private equity industry. This article will delve into the intricacies of secondaries, exploring their purpose, mechanics, and impact on the private equity landscape.

Understanding Secondaries

Definition: Secondaries, in the context of private equity, involve the sale and purchase of existing investor commitments in private equity funds. These transactions can occur through various channels, such as dedicated secondary marketplaces, private negotiations, or intermediaries.

Types of Secondaries: Secondaries can be categorized into two primary types: direct secondaries and indirect secondaries. Direct secondaries involve the transfer of limited partnership interests from one investor to another. Indirect secondaries, on the other hand, involve the acquisition of portfolios of limited partnership interests or entire private equity fund stakes.

Motivations for Secondaries: There are several reasons why investors engage in secondary transactions. Some investors may seek to rebalance their portfolios by divesting from certain private equity funds and reinvesting in others. Others may require liquidity due to changing investment strategies, fund terminations, or regulatory considerations. Additionally, investors may engage in secondaries to achieve a more efficient allocation of capital or to exit an underperforming investment.

Process and Mechanics

Market Participants: The secondary market for private equity involves a range of participants, including institutional investors, fund managers, secondary market specialists, and intermediaries. Institutional investors, such as pension funds, endowments, and sovereign wealth funds, are often the sellers of limited partnership interests, while secondary market specialists and intermediaries facilitate the transactions.

Pricing and Valuation: Valuing private equity investments can be complex due to the illiquid nature of the asset class. Pricing is typically based on the net asset value (NAV) of the fund, which reflects the value of the underlying portfolio companies. However, additional factors, such as the fund’s vintage, performance track record, and market conditions, also influence pricing.

Legal and Regulatory Considerations: Secondaries involve legal and regulatory considerations that vary across jurisdictions. Investors need to ensure compliance with applicable securities laws, fund agreements, and transfer restrictions. Additionally, fund managers may have the right to approve or reject the transfer of limited partnership interests, which can impact the execution of secondary transactions.

Impact on the Private Equity Landscape

Liquidity and Portfolio Management: Secondaries provide investors with increased liquidity options, allowing them to manage their private equity portfolios more actively. By selling or buying limited partnership interests, investors can adjust their exposure to specific funds or sectors, enhancing portfolio diversification and risk management.

Market Efficiency and Pricing: The secondary market contributes to the overall efficiency of the private equity market by providing a platform for price discovery. Secondary transactions can reveal market sentiment and pricing trends, which can influence primary market activities and fund valuations.

Access to Private Equity: Secondaries offer investors the opportunity to gain exposure to private equity assets without participating in primary fundraisings. This can be particularly beneficial for investors seeking to enter the asset class or increase their private equity allocation.


Secondaries play a vital role in the private equity industry, facilitating the transfer of limited partnership interests and providing liquidity options for investors. These transactions contribute to market efficiency, enhance portfolio management capabilities, and broaden access to private equity investments. As the secondary market continues to evolve, it remains an integral part of the private equity landscape.


– Investopedia: investopedia.com
– Preqin: preqin.com
– The Wall Street Journal: wsj.com