Dry Powder – A Term Important To Investors, Corporate And Private Equity

Dry powder In the financial world refers to a couple of things – financial reserves and liquidity. Therefore, the term is often used in the area of personal finance, corporate environment, and venture capital or private equity as well.

The term ‘dry powder’ roots its origin to the 17th century, when loose gunpowder was in use for the military battles. At the time, it was essential to keep the gunpowder dry to keep the guns and cannons firing. So, the military has to maintain reserves of powder in the dry form. The same concept came in the financial world that reserves help the company to operate efficiently or makes an investors’ portfolio look efficient.

Dry Powder

What does Dry Powder mean for Reserves?

Talking of reserves, it denotes the cash reserves of a company or an individual. Cash reserves come in handy during tough financial conditions. So, a company or an individual builds up its “dry powder” to prepare for the unexpected downturn. A company with a lot of such liquid assets gets a financial advantage over others.

Such type of investments come handy during a steep decline in the market. During a decline, investors can easily sell such assets to get the cash. Also, the cash from selling such investment can be used to buy the stock at low prices during the decline.

What does it mean for Liquidity?

When talking of the liquidity, the term relates to investment in the liquid assets, like money market funds. It is a wise strategy not to invest fully in the stock market; rather some portion should be invested in the “dry powder” assets. Such type of investments come handy during a steep decline in the market as investors can easily sell such assets to get the cash. Also, the cash from selling such investment can be used to buy the stock at low prices during the period of decline.

What does it mean for a Company?

For a company, higher levels of such assets give more bargaining power when it comes to negotiating credit terms. A bank or any credit institution will inspect the borrower’s dry powder levels to ensure if the borrower has enough reserves to meet the debt obligations. Moreover, a satisfactory level of it results in favorable credit terms for the borrowers, including a low-interest rate.

Along with the bargaining power, keeping the powder dry also acts as a buffer against the unforeseen financial crisis. For instance, if a company expects a slow demand for its product in near time, it would raise its dry powder levels to ensure it has assets that can come in handy during distress times. A company without such assets or lower levels of dry powder may not enjoy such flexibility.

Also, a company must not keep too much of their cash as a dry powder. It may lower their ability to expand. In case of too much reserve, the money is blocked, and thus, can’t be used for other productive purposes. So, it is imperative for a company to maintain the right levels powder as dry.

What does it mean for Venture Capitalists or Private Equity Funds?

Venture capitalists or private equity funds require adequate cash on hand to invest in a new opportunity. They also require cash to refund the companies in the portfolio. Therefore, the majority of the venture capitalists prefer keeping dry powder on hand. It also leads to high valuation multiples and increased deal-making. Dry powder means ready capital to take advantage of a high-quality target offering massive growth opportunity.

Also, when a high-net-worth individual connects with a private equity fund, they examine the levels of dry powder the fund maintains to support future growth initiatives. Moreover, it is also a good indicator of the fund’s investment strategy.

It must be noted private equity funds that keep high levels of powder as dry does not always mean they are anticipating better deals ahead. Sometimes, it also means the lack of attractive deals to invest in. For instance, a September 2017 report from Preqin Ltd notes that the private equity funds were holding $963.3 billion of dry powder. This was due to more money into the private equity funds by investors and lack of high return portfolios to invest in.

What does it mean for Individuals (or Personal Finance)?

Similar to companies, for individuals, keeping powder dry helps to meet unforeseen emergencies and obligations. If a person keeps his or her powder dry, it means they are holding at least some portion of their personal net worth in assets (cash or marketable securities) that can quickly be converted into cash as and when needed.

Last updated on : September 24th, 2019
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