3i North Asia head quits

The UK-based private equity group has lost 20-year veteran Jamie Paton, head of its Hong Kong office and the man charged with leading the firm’s investment activity in North Asia.

Jamie Paton, a 20-year 3i veteran who ran its North Asia business from Hong Kong, has left the UK-listed private equity group.

Paton is understood to be taking a career break, and has not yet decided what he will do on his return.

Paton, who joined 3i in 1987, moved to Hong Kong to set up 3i’s first North Asia office in 2001. He reported to Chris Rowlands, 3i’s managing partner in Asia, and was responsible for the firm’s investments across the region, working alongside south-east Asia head Mark Thornton and India head Anil Ahuja.

3i has decided not to appoint a direct replacement. Instead, his responsibilities will be shared between three of his direct reports: Anna Cheung, in the Hong Kong office, Lily Jin, head of the Beijing office, and Albert Xu, head of the Shanghai office.

3i has been looking to strengthen its team in the region. In January, Rowlands relocated permanently to Singapore to concentrate on building the franchise.

China and North Asia represents an increasingly important territory for 3i as it looks to expand outside its core markets in western Europe. The group has invested more than $200 million in China and South Korea during the last three years, and has a stated aim of investing a further $1 billion during the next three years.

This will mostly be through growth capital investments, although up to 10 percent of its €5 billion Eurofund V has also been earmarked for deals in the region.

3i has completed ten deals in China, most recently buying a $25 million stake in Mongolian restaurant chain Little Sheep in July 2006. Paton himself led the group’s investments in Amperex Technology, 3i’s first direct investment in China; in digital outdoor media company Focus Media; and in market-leading fire alarms business GST. He also led 3i’s investment in CJ CGV, Korea’s biggest multiplex cinema chain.

Paton was also a prominent figure in the local industry. He was a member of the executive committee of the Hong Kong Venture Capital Association, and took part in a UK/ China joint working party group on venture capital.

He joined 3i following four years at KPMG, where he qualified as a chartered accountant after graduating in civil engineering from Heriot-Watt University in Scotland.