Private equity firms need to redouble their efforts on transparency and disclosure
February saw the launch of the new UK private equity annual reports, which brings together highlights and featured information from the three annual reports compiled by and for the Private Equity Reporting Group (PERG). For those who don’t know, PERG is the independent body established to assess the industry’s compliance with the Walker Guidelines.
Over the last 12 months the BVCA has worked with PERG to refresh the Guidelines to increase their understanding and accessibility. This has resulted in a new website, new branding for the PERG Annual Report and a restructured EY report on the performance of portfolio companies.
With this refresh, and the launch held on Monday for members and the media, comes higher scrutiny of the industry and in particular the private equity firms in scope. We have, in a way, invited it. However, we believe that the value of the Walker Guidelines is paramount and should be promoted. As part of our wider strategy of addressing the industry’s reputational issues, we aim to maximise awareness of the Walker Guidelines process as one of our key transparency assets. We are therefore making a particular point of promoting the reports (of PERG and the portfolio companies) this year and indeed going forward. By making them more accessible, hosting a media launch and creating a revamped website — we expect greater attention.
As the new PERG reporting year begins, there is a need for private equity firms and their portfolio companies to redouble their efforts to improve their scores. PERG notes in its 15th Annual Report that only 60% of companies reviewed by PwC received a “good” rating, while the remaining 40% achieved only a “basic” grade and none received “excellent”. As corporate reporting for public and private companies alike is only increasing, the dividing line between what a public company includes in its annual report and what a private company includes is blurring. The result is a move towards increased disclosure for private companies. Private equity firms and their portfolio companies should keep this in mind when applying the Guidelines, as the requirements are benchmarked against those of the FTSE250.
It is also important to note however that many portfolio companies received an excellent rating in individual disclosures. These companies have gone above and beyond in these areas and should be commended.
Transparency requirements were well adhered too, with the vast majority meeting both the annual report and the mid-year update deadlines. PERG has noted, however, that there is too much “hand holding” by the BVCA and that firms in scope shouldn’t rely on timely reminders and comms. We should strive for it to become business as usual.
The BVCA, with the help of its advisors EY and PwC, is always on hand to assist firms and their portfolio companies with their questions. With the increased scrutiny, now is the time to fully engage with the spirit of the Walker Guidelines, and as a result show commitment to transparency and disclosure. Enhancing transparency in the industry can only be good for business.
Legal & Accounting Policy Manager, BVCA
This article was originally published on 24 February 2023 on the BVCA website.