How Private Equity Firms Can Raise Capital Through Sale-Leasebacks

by King White, on May 20, 2024 8:30:00 AM

Private equity landscapes continuously evolve, with firms seeking innovative strategies to fund growth, refinance debt, and manage mergers and acquisitions effectively. According to a recent PwC report, 60% of CEOs are contemplating at least one acquisition in the next three years. This interest has been spurred by a lull in M&A activity in 2023, leading to a significant buildup of buyer demand. A critical challenge in this scenario is the efficient utilization of capital, particularly when large sums are immobilized in fixed assets like a portfolio company’s owned real estate.

Capital constraints in real estate

For private equity firms, owned real estate assets such as a portfolio company’s headquarters, manufacturing plant, distribution center, clinics, data centers, retail stores and similar buildings typically represent significant but dormant capital. Traditional financing methods tied to these assets often involve high costs and rigid terms, which hinders the quick action required for timely acquisitions.

Sale-leasebacks as a strategic solution

Sale-leasebacks emerge as a potent tool under these conditions, providing a more fluid and flexible financing alternative. This method entails selling owned real estate assets and leasing them back long-term, thus freeing up essential capital. This approach contrasts sharply with traditional loans or mortgages that might involve fluctuating interest rates and more stringent repayment schedules.

Operational advantages

The process of sale-leasebacks is streamlined, often completed within 60 to 90 days from initiation to funding. This rapid turnaround is crucial for private equity firms that operate under tight deadlines to finalize acquisitions.

Deal terms impacting real estate valuation

The valuation of real estate in a sale-leaseback arrangement is influenced by several key terms, which are crucial for both the buyer and the future lessee:

  • Rental Rate: Competitive yet sustainable market rental rates are essential to ensure both immediate capital return and long-term investment stability.
  • Lease Term: The typical lease term in a sale-leaseback ranges from 10 to 20 years, providing long-term financial predictability and security for both parties.
  • Credit of the Tenant: A tenant’s creditworthiness significantly impacts the terms and perceived risk of the leaseback, affecting interest rates and overall deal attractiveness.
  • Location of the Building: Prime locations typically yield higher valuations due to their desirability and potential for appreciation.
  • Quality of the Building: Higher-quality buildings attract better lease terms and valuations due to lower anticipated maintenance costs and greater tenant appeal.
  • Size of the Building: The size and scalability of a property can affect the types of buyers and its valuation in a sale-leaseback deal.
  • Use of the Building: Properties suited to a wide range of uses or those essential to the tenant’s operations (e.g., specialized manufacturing facilities) are often valued higher.

Debunking misconceptions

There’s a common misconception that sale-leasebacks are only viable for high-value properties in prime locations. However, any profitable real estate asset, including specialized manufacturing facilities in smaller markets, can be a good candidate. The key criterion is the asset’s ability to contribute positively to the firm’s bottom line, regardless of geographical or market position.

Market outlook for sale-leasebacks in 2024

The flexibility and efficiency of sale-leasebacks are expected to drive their increased adoption in the coming years, particularly as firms look to capitalize on the rebound in M&A activity and improved capital markets. This financing mechanism is becoming more recognized and accepted within the private equity sector, representing a shift away from more traditional debt financing methods. However, a close eye on interest rates is critical as they have negatively impacted valuations as cap rates have increased over the last year. If interest rates retreat, there could be a flood of sale-leaseback transactions in the near future.  


Sale-leasebacks offer private equity firms a strategic avenue to unlock the value tied up in company-owned real estate assets, thereby enhancing liquidity and facilitating quicker strategic moves. As market dynamics evolve, leveraging such innovative financial structures will be crucial for firms aiming to maximize their operational and financial agility. Private equity entities considering this option are positioned to not only meet immediate capital needs but also to strategically improve their market standing in a competitive environment.

Topics:Corporate Real Estate



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