Report from the Front

Valentine’s Day is still months away, but for early planners we pass along the following:

The world’s second largest diamond was discovered in a mine in Botswana last week. Weighing in at 1,111 carats, the giant gem is the size of a tennis ball. One expert reported it had “the potential to be one very expensive diamond.”

While our budget was unlikely to accommodate such a gift this year, we found gems of another sort at last week’s outstanding Wells Fargo BDC conference. Private debt and equity chiefs produced trenchant observations on market challenges and opportunities.

First, Marc Lasry of Avenue Capital said that generating outsized returns required buying from “uneconomic sellers.” He cited $2 trillion of non-core assets that would need to come off European bank balance sheets to meet regulatory restrictions. This year’s migration of $150 billion was expected to expand to $200 billion in 2016.

In the US Lasry identified energy, where borrowers’ “issues have issues,” as needing financing the most. BDCs and hedge funds benefit from locked-up capital so are well-positioned against the $300 billion in distributed energy debt.