Private Equity and Innovation
| Peter Klein |
LBOs do not reduce patent activity, and the quality of patents may actually increase following a “going-private” transaction, according to a new paper by Morten Sorensen, Per Strömberg, and Josh Lerner.
A long-standing controversy is whether LBOs relieve managers from short-term pressures of dispersed shareholders, or whether LBO funds themselves are driven by short-term profit motives and sacrifice long-term growth to boost short-term performance. We investigate 495 transactions with a focus on one form of long-term activities, namely investments in innovation as measured by patenting activity. We find no evidence that LBOs decrease these activities. Relying on standard measures of patent quality, we find that patents applied for by firms in private equity transactions are more cited (a proxy for economic importance), show no significant shifts in the fundamental nature of the research, and are more concentrated in the most important and prominent areas of companies’ innovative portfolios.