Private Equity Has Money to Burn

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There's $1 trillion that needs to be spent -- and spent fast.

As Andrew Ross Sorkin pointed out in The New York Times, private equity firms have a lot of capital that needs to be invested. As much as $200 billion of that needs to be put to work over the next 12 months or the P/E shops lose their claim to it, and with it, the associated fees.

Does this mean that we're going to see a bunch of P/E shops chasing expensive, ill-advised deals? It could. The typical management fee in the P/E world is 2%, and 2% of $200 billion isn't chump change. This is even more of a consideration since prominent private-equity players like Blackstone (NYSE: BX) , KKR (NYSE: KKR) , and Carlyle Group are now publicly held companies that have to answer to investors. If this ticking clock does inspire P/E players to dive in in subpar deals, it could be a bummer for their limited partners (aka, fund investors).

But what's more interesting for us Foolish stock market investors is whether there's an investible opportunity here. I wouldn't say it's with the public P/E shops -- there could be more downside than upside in this particular story. And though some investors may try to chase stable, highly cash-flow positive businesses that might be good leveraged buyout targets, I'm no fan of takeover speculation.

With all of that off the table, what's left? The bankers of course. If the fear of losing management fees inspires an uptick in dealmaking, there could be some sweet investment banking fees to be had. The giants like Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) may not see enough to seriously move the needle, but smaller, merger advisory-focused shops like Lazard (NYSE: LAZ) or Greenhill could stand to benefit.

It bears noting that I'd hardly suggest investing in any of these banks based solely on the expectation of P/E deal fees. But it could provide some amount of tailwind and be a good excuse to tune into the smaller investment banks.

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