3i pulls back on Asian buyouts

The London-listed private equity firm will not replace its departing Asian buyout head and has merged its buyout and growth capital teams in Singapore.

London-listed private equity firm 3i Group is pulling back from buyouts in Asia. The firm has merged its growth and buyout teams in Singapore and will not replace its departing Asian buyout head, David Osborne, the firm has confirmed.

“Growth Capital is our predominant focus in Southeast Asia, India, China and where we believe that we will see the largest investment opportunity over the coming years,” Mark Thornton, 3i partner and head of Southeast Asia, said in written statement.

It emerged last week that David Osborne, currently a Singapore-based partner at 3i and head of its Asian buyout team, is leaving the firm. Osborne is joining Singapore-headquartered private equity infrastructure fund manager CapAsia as a managing director and will head the firm’s Islamic Infrastructure Fund, effective 1 July. 

Thornton confirmed Osborne would not be replaced and said the firm had merged its Singapore-based Asian buyout team with its Southeast Asian growth capital team. The firm still maintains one of the largest Southeast Asia-focused teams, Osborne said.

Buyouts won't be completely off the menu for the firm, he said, which will continue to pursue such investments on an “opportunistic” basis through its global buyout team and local sector expertise in future. However, he added: “On balance [we] expect to see a greater number of growth deals as the region continues to come out of recession.”

The firm declined to confirm how many professionals the merged Singapore team now has or if anyone other than Osborne has left. According to its website, 3i has a team of 16 professionals in Asia across its offices in Singapore, Beijing, Delhi, and Mumbai, excluding those on its Indian infrastructure team. Following Osborne's departure, there are six professionals listed in the Singapore office.

3i currently has a buyout portfolio of three companies in Asia. These are LHI Technology, a manufacturer of medical cables; Franklin Offshore, a deepwater mooring specialist; and Asia Capital Reinsurance, a non-life reinsurance group. According to Thornton, all three companies are “performing very strongly”.