Published on October 27, 2023

Public Market Equivalent (PME): A Comprehensive Dive into Modern Investment Metrics

In the intricate world of private equity investment, metrics and methodologies to evaluate performance are manifold. However, as the industry evolves, there’s one metric that’s increasingly gaining traction among sophisticated investors: the Public Market Equivalent (PME). This metric serves as a valuable tool to juxtapose the performance of private equity investments against public market indices. In this article, we dive deep into PME, exploring its nuances, importance, and relevance in today's investment landscape.

Public Market Equivalent: Understanding PME

At its core, PME is a method that evaluates the return an investor would have obtained if they had invested in public markets instead of a private equity fund. By comparing the investment to a benchmark, usually a public market index, PME provides a ratio. A PME greater than 1 suggests the private investment outperformed the public market, while a figure below 1 indicates underperformance. Rather than solely focusing on the PME ratio, many consider the comparative relative performance, which is calculated as the difference between the fund return and the PME performance.

Public Market Equivalent: Why PME? The Catalysts for Its Rise

The traditional Internal Rate of Return (IRR) has long been a favored tool for assessing private equity performance. However, its stand-alone nature, devoid of direct comparison to public markets, leaves gaps in holistic performance evaluation. Enter PME. This metric not only assesses the returns but, crucially, evaluates them against a backdrop of potential public market returns during the same timeframe.

Public Market Equivalent: A Brief Overview on Calculating PME

To compute the PME, one starts by simulating an alternate reality where every capital call from a private equity investment is, instead, invested in a public market index. These investments are then 'sold' at the same times and proportions as the private equity fund's distributions. The ratio of the final value of these simulated public market investments to the actual private equity distributions gives the PME.

Public Market Equivalent: The Evolutionary Timeline of PME

The genesis of PME can be traced back to the early 2000s, when the initial frameworks were being laid out. The private equity world was rapidly expanding, and with this growth came the need for more comprehensive performance benchmarks. This was especially pertinent as private equity began to court a wider array of investors, many of whom were more familiar with public markets. These investors demanded a metric that could provide a direct, apples-to-apples comparison.

The initial reception to PME was mixed. While many applauded its comparative approach, some viewed it as overly complex, especially when simpler metrics like IRR were already so entrenched. However, as the years progressed, its utility in providing a nuanced performance narrative became undeniable.

Public Market Equivalent (PME): Top 10 Most Valuable States

Public Market Equivalent: Real-world Implications and Applications

For Limited Partners (LPs) considering re-investing in a subsequent fund or evaluating the performance of their current portfolios, PME offers invaluable insights. The metric allows LPs to determine whether their commitments to private equity have added value compared to investing passively in public markets.

Moreover, PME shines in its ability to adapt. It’s not limited to equities. With the right benchmark, PME can be tailored to compare private investments against various asset classes, from bonds to real estate.

Public Market Equivalent: Criticisms and Limitations

While PME has garnered acclaim, it's not without detractors. Some critics argue that PME, despite its comparative approach, might still not capture the unique risks associated with private equity. The illiquidity, long investment horizons, and sector-specific risks inherent in private equity investments are sometimes believed to be incompletely reflected in PME comparisons.

Another challenge emerges in selecting the appropriate benchmark. Given the vast array of public indices available, choosing the most fitting comparator for a specific private equity strategy can be subjective.

Public Market Equivalent: PME vs. Other Metrics

While PME provides a comparative lens, metrics like IRR and Multiple on Invested Capital (MOIC) retain their significance. IRR offers insights into the time-weighted returns, while MOIC gives a straightforward return multiple. When used collectively, these metrics, alongside PME, can paint a comprehensive picture of a private equity investment’s performance.

Public Market Equivalent: The Broader Implications of PME on Global Investments

As PME's significance grows in the U.S., its ripples are being felt globally. European and Asian private equity markets are also gradually embracing this metric. The universal applicability of PME, transcending geographical boundaries, stems from its foundational logic: providing a relevant benchmark comparison, irrespective of the region.

Furthermore, the rise of PME underscores a more profound shift in the investment world: the blurring of lines between private and public investments. Today, with private equity firms holding significant stakes in public companies and vice versa, the landscape is more interconnected than ever. In such a scenario, PME acts as a bridge, offering a unified lens through which to view these converging worlds.

In essence, PME not only offers a performance evaluation metric but also reflects the symbiotic relationship between private and public equity, underscoring the interconnected tapestry of modern finance.

Public Market Equivalent: Looking Ahead: The Future of PME

As the private equity landscape continues its dynamic evolution, the tools to evaluate and measure success must adapt in tandem. PME’s growing popularity is indicative of the industry's shift towards more transparent, relative performance evaluation. While traditional metrics won't vanish, PME is set to become a staple in the toolkit of discerning private equity investors.

In conclusion, PME represents more than just a metric; it’s a reflection of the investment community’s broader quest for transparency, clarity, and holistic performance evaluation. As the complexities of private equity investments burgeon, tools like PME will be crucial in navigating the labyrinth, offering both context and clarity.


  1. Preqin special report: Public market equivalent (PME) benchmarking. (n.d.).
  2. Pointless market equivalence? if not the IRR, why the PME?. CFA Institute Enterprising Investor. (2021, July 7).
  3. Assessing alpha in private equity returns with public market equivalent analysis. eVestment. (2023, March 10).
  4. Private I best practices: Understanding public market comparison methodologies. Burgiss. (n.d.).
  5. The public market equivalent and private equity performance. (n.d.-b).

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