Private Equity Acquisition Revenue Metrics That Matter

Published on August 10, 2023 by Sawyer Middeleer

Private Equity Acquisition Revenue Metrics That Matter

In the high-stakes game of private equity acquisitions, the adage "what gets measured gets managed" rings particularly true. For private equity (PE) firms, thorough due diligence goes beyond just the basic financial health of a company. It includes an in-depth analysis of revenue metrics to evaluate a target’s past performance and predict future success. Identifying and understanding the key revenue metrics—often indicators of profitability, operational efficiency, and growth potential—is critical for value creation and a successful exit down the line.

In this article, we’ll explore the core revenue metrics that matter to PE firms when considering a business acquisition. These are the metrics that can either flag potential red flags or highlight opportunities for growth and improvement post-acquisition.

Revenue Growth Rate

Revenue growth rate is perhaps the most fundamental metric, providing a snapshot of a company's top-line growth over time. It reflects the company's ability to increase revenue from period to period and is usually calculated annually or quarterly. A continuously positive growth rate is often indicative of a firm's competitive standing and market opportunity.

Recurring Revenue

Recurring revenue is the portion of a company’s revenue that is expected to continue in the future. For PE firms, a strong recurring revenue stream means predictability and stability of future cash flows, making it a highly valued metric. This is especially true for companies with subscription-based models or long-term contracts.

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

This metric reflects the cost associated with convincing a customer to buy a product or service. It includes sales and marketing expenses and is an essential factor for evaluating the efficiency of a company's customer acquisition strategies. For PE investors, a lower CAC is ideal, as it means the company is acquiring customers without overspending, keeping profit margins healthy.

Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV)

CLTV predicts the net profit attributed to the entire future relationship with a customer. When juxtaposed with CAC, it provides tremendous insight into how much should be invested in customer acquisition and retention. In the eyes of PE investors, a high ratio of CLTV to CAC is a strong indicator of a company's profitability and long-term value.

Net Revenue Retention (NRR) Rate

Often used in SaaS and other subscription-based business models, NRR measures the revenue retained from existing customers over a given period, factoring in upgrades, downgrades, and churn. A high NRR rate is a sign of customer satisfaction and product stickiness, which is extremely attractive for PE firms as it indicates scalable and stable revenue streams.

Gross Margin

Gross margin represents the difference between revenue and the cost of goods sold (COGS), which includes only the direct costs attributable to the production of the goods sold by a company. It shows how efficiently a company uses its resources in the production process and its ability to generate profit.


Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) margin is a financial performance metric that assesses a company's operational profitability as a percentage of revenue. It’s a popular metric for PE firms because it focuses on the outcome of operating decisions while excluding the impact of non-operating decisions like tax and leverage.

Churn Rate

For many companies, particularly in the SaaS sector, churn rate is a closely watched metric. It measures the rate at which customers cancel their subscriptions. A high churn rate indicates dissatisfaction and could reflect more profound issues within the company, such as a poor product-market fit or subpar customer service. Reducing churn is often a quick win for PE firms post-acquisition.

Bookings and Billings

Bookings refer to the value of a contract signed with a customer for products or services provided by a company, while billings represent the invoicing for those services. These metrics offer insight into the sales pipeline and cash flow predictability, which are important factors for PE investors concerned with accurate revenue forecasting.

Revenue Concentration

Revenue concentration measures how much of a company’s revenue comes from its top customers. A high level of concentration can be a risk if losing one or two major clients could significantly impact the financial health of the business. It’s an important metric for PE firms to assess diversification and dependence on key accounts.

Operating Efficiency Ratios

These ratios encompass a range of metrics like Sales Efficiency, Marketing Efficiency, and others that measure the return on investment for various operational activities. These help PE firms understand where there are leakages in the company's operations that can be plugged for better margins and profitability.

The Importance of a Holistic Approach

While the metrics mentioned above are critically important, their true power lies in a holistic analysis, where they can inform a bigger picture. For instance, a company might have an excellent revenue growth rate, but if it shows high customer acquisition costs and a high churn rate, those gains may not be sustainable, signaling a potential risk for a PE investor.

Furthermore, it’s important to contextualize these metrics within the industry and market dynamics. For instance, a high churn rate might be industry standard for certain sectors, or a high revenue growth rate could be a result of a one-time market anomaly rather than a stable growth trajectory.


Private equity acquisition decisions hinge on in-depth financial scrutiny, which is critical for revealing both the value and the vulnerabilities of a target. Revenue metrics like the ones detailed above serve as indicators of an acquisition's potential success by painting a detailed picture of the company’s financial health and, more importantly, its future prospects.

Investing time in understanding the nuances of these revenue metrics can unearth insights that inform smarter acquisition strategies and, ultimately, drive better outcomes. For private equity firms, these revenue metrics are not just indicators but the signposts that guide a path to robust, sustained growth post-acquisition.

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