Private vs Public Equity: Difference and Comparison

Private equity involves investing in private companies that are not publicly traded on stock exchanges, aiming for significant ownership stakes and actively managing them to increase value before exiting. Public equity involves investing in publicly traded companies, offering liquidity through easily tradable shares but subject to market volatility and regulatory scrutiny.

Key Takeaways

  1. Private equity involves investment in privately-held companies not traded on public stock exchanges, while public equity refers to investment in publicly-traded companies listed on stock exchanges.
  2. Private equity investments involve larger capital commitments, longer investment horizons, and more active company management involvement than public equity investments.
  3. Due to limited liquidity and higher risk, private equity investments are suitable for more sophisticated investors, such as institutional investors or high-net-worth individuals. In contrast, public equity investments are accessible to more investors.

Private vs Public Equity

The shares of a person in a private company is called private equity. In private equity, information related to stocks can not be  shared with the public. There are two investment strategies in a private equity corporation. The shares of a person in a public company is called public equity. They can share their financial information with the public. 

Private vs Public Equity

The other differences in terms of their rules and regulations can be shown in the comparison table below.


Comparison Table

FeaturePrivate EquityPublic Equity
DefinitionOwnership stakes in companies that are not publicly traded on a stock exchange.Ownership stakes in companies that are traded on public stock exchanges.
InvestorsTypically accredited investors (high net worth individuals or institutions) and private equity firms.Available to individual and institutional investors.
AccessibilityLess accessible to average investors. Private equity investments are made through funds with high investment minimums.Easily accessible through a brokerage account.
LiquidityLess liquid. Investors may hold private equity investments for years before an exit event (IPO, acquisition, etc.).Highly liquid. Shares can be bought and sold easily during market hours.
ValuationLess transparent. Valuations can be more subjective and based on factors like future potential.Transparent. Stock prices are determined by market forces based on supply and demand.
InformationLess disclosure requirements compared to public companies.Public companies must regularly file financial reports and disclosures with regulators (SEC, etc.).
RiskPotentially higher risk due to lack of liquidity and less transparency.Risk levels vary across individual stocks, though can be mitigated through diversification.
Return PotentialPotentially higher returns due to ability to influence a firm’s operations.Returns tied to overall market performance and individual stock choices.


What is Private Equity?

Private equity (PE) refers to investments made in private companies or the acquisition of public companies that result in their delisting from public stock exchanges. It’s a form of alternative investment that involves investing in companies that are not publicly traded on stock exchanges.

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The Structure of Private Equity

1. Investment Funds

Private equity firms raise capital from institutional investors, such as pension funds, endowments, and wealthy individuals, to form investment funds. These funds are structured as limited partnerships, where the private equity firm serves as the general partner and the investors are limited partners.

2. Investment Process

Private equity firms identify investment opportunities based on various criteria, including industry trends, company performance, and growth potential. They conduct thorough due diligence to assess the target company’s financial health, management team, competitive positioning, and growth prospects.

3. Leveraged Buyouts (LBOs)

One common strategy in private equity is leveraged buyouts (LBOs), where the private equity firm acquires a controlling stake in a company using a combination of equity and debt financing. Debt financing, in the form of loans, bonds, or other debt instruments, magnifies potential returns but also increases financial risk.

Operations and Value Creation

1. Active Management

Private equity firms take an active role in managing their portfolio companies. They work closely with company management to implement strategic initiatives aimed at improving operational efficiency, expanding market reach, and increasing profitability.

2. Strategic Initiatives

Private equity firms may implement various strategic initiatives, such as restructuring operations, optimizing capital structure, pursuing acquisitions, or divesting non-core assets, to enhance the value of their portfolio companies.

3. Operational Improvements

Private equity investors focus on driving operational improvements within portfolio companies by implementing best practices, upgrading technology and systems, streamlining processes, and enhancing corporate governance.

Exit Strategies

1. Initial Public Offerings (IPOs)

Private equity firms may opt to exit their investments through an initial public offering (IPO), where the portfolio company’s shares are offered to the public on a stock exchange. This provides liquidity to the private equity firm and its investors.

2. Sale to Strategic Buyers

Another exit strategy involves selling the portfolio company to a strategic buyer, such as a competitor or a larger company in the same industry. Strategic buyers may be willing to pay a premium for synergies or strategic advantages resulting from the acquisition.

3. Secondary Sales

Private equity firms may also sell their stakes in portfolio companies to other private equity firms or financial institutions in secondary transactions, providing an alternative liquidity option.

private equity

What is Public Equity?

Public equity, also known as public stocks or equities, refers to ownership shares in companies that are publicly traded on stock exchanges. When a company goes public, it offers a portion of its ownership to investors through an initial public offering (IPO), allowing them to buy and sell shares on the open market.

The Structure of Public Equity

1. Stock Exchanges

Publicly traded companies list their shares on stock exchanges such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), Nasdaq, London Stock Exchange (LSE), and Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE). These exchanges provide a centralized marketplace where buyers and sellers can trade shares.

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2. Shareholders

Public equity shareholders are individuals, institutional investors, mutual funds, hedge funds, and other entities that own shares of publicly traded companies. Shareholders have voting rights and may receive dividends, which are a portion of the company’s profits distributed to shareholders.

3. Market Regulation

Public equity markets are subject to regulation by government agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the United States, to ensure transparency, fairness, and investor protection. Companies must adhere to disclosure requirements and financial reporting standards to maintain their listing status.

Market Dynamics

1. Liquidity

Public equity markets offer liquidity, allowing investors to buy and sell shares easily on stock exchanges. Liquidity provides flexibility for investors to adjust their portfolios and access capital quickly.

2. Market Volatility

Public equity prices can be volatile, fluctuating in response to market sentiment, economic conditions, company performance, and geopolitical events. Volatility presents both opportunities for profit and risks for investors.

3. Transparency

Publicly traded companies are required to disclose financial information, operating performance, and material developments to shareholders and the public. Transparency facilitates informed investment decisions and fosters market efficiency.

Investment Strategies

1. Fundamental Analysis

Investors use fundamental analysis to evaluate public equities, assessing factors such as earnings growth, revenue potential, market position, competitive advantages, management quality, and valuation metrics to identify undervalued or overvalued stocks.

2. Technical Analysis

Technical analysis involves studying historical price patterns, trading volume, and market trends to forecast future price movements of public equities. Technical analysts use charts and technical indicators to make trading decisions.

3. Diversification

Investors may diversify their public equity portfolios across different industries, sectors, geographic regions, and asset classes to manage risk and enhance long-term returns.

Main Differences Between Private and Public Equity

  • Ownership and Accessibility:
    • Private Equity:
      • Ownership in privately held companies.
      • Limited accessibility, restricted to institutional investors and accredited individuals.
    • Public Equity:
      • Ownership in publicly traded companies.
      • Widely accessible to individual and institutional investors through stock exchanges.
  • Regulation and Disclosure:
    • Private Equity:
      • Less regulatory oversight compared to public markets.
      • Limited disclosure requirements, offering more confidentiality.
    • Public Equity:
      • Subject to stringent regulatory requirements, such as SEC filings in the U.S.
      • Must provide extensive financial and operational disclosures to shareholders and regulatory bodies.
  • Liquidity and Investment Horizon:
    • Private Equity:
      • Illiquid investments with longer investment horizons, ranging from 5 to 10 years or more.
      • Limited ability to exit investments before the end of the investment period.
    • Public Equity:
      • Highly liquid investments, with shares traded on public stock exchanges daily.
      • Investors can buy and sell shares at any time during market hours, providing immediate liquidity.
  • Risk and Return Profiles:
    • Private Equity:
      • Potentially higher returns due to the illiquidity premium and active management strategies.
      • Higher risk due to the lack of liquidity, reliance on leverage, and concentration of investments in fewer companies.
    • Public Equity:
      • Generally lower returns compared to private equity over the long term.
      • Lower risk due to the liquidity of investments, diversification opportunities, and regulatory safeguards.
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Last Updated : 02 March, 2024

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