In their 1961 paper, “Dividend Policy, Growth, and the Valuation of Shares,” Merton Miller and Franco Modigliani famously established that dividend policy should be irrelevant to stock returns. As they explained it, at least before frictions like trading costs and taxes, investors should be indifferent to $1 in the form of a dividend (causing the stock price to drop by $1) and $1 received by selling shares. This must be true, unless you believe that $1 isn’t worth $1. This theorem has not been challenged since, at least in the academic community.
The illiquid nature of the asset class makes the demystifying of private equity returns difficult to achieve under any circumstances, but the framework presented in this article should move the reader closer to the goal.
How do you separate the signal from the noise? To have confidence that a factor premium, or strategy, isn’t just the result of data mining - a lucky/random outcome - we recommended that you should require evidence that the premium has been not only persistent over long periods of time and across economic regimes, but also pervasive across sectors, countries, geographic regions and even asset classes; robust to various definitions (for example, there has been both a value and a momentum premium using many different metrics); survives transactions costs; and has intuitive risk- or behavioral-based explanations for the premium to persist.