Actis, Navis in Thai secondary deal

UK-based private equity firm Actis has sold a Thai wholesaler and retailer of English-language publications to Malaysia’s Navis Capital Partners.

Actis, the emerging markets private equity firm, has completed one of Southeast Asia’s first secondary buyouts in acquiring Thailand’s leading English language magazine businesses, Distri-Thai, from Malaysia’s Navis Capital Partners.
Navis and Actis declined to comment on the value of the transaction, which took a mere ten weeks to conclude, according to officials from both companies.
The secondary transaction, which follows another between domestic private equity firms Unison Capital and Polaris Principal Finance in Japan last month, is said to be only the second such deal in Thailand. Few secondary deals are concluded in Asia, and even fewer in Southeast Asia – but as a generation of earlier funds near the end of their life cycles, more exits can be expected across the region.
Secondaries now appear a credible option for firms that need to realize value in the coming months from assets that may not be ripe for listing or sale to trade buyers. Such assets may instead require further development that another private equity firm might be well placed to undertake.
Actis is looking to expand Distri-Thai by doubling the number of retail outlets from the current 17, extending the title range distributed by the firm to include Asian language magazines, and growing the company’s presence geographically, Rick Phillips, a partner at Actis, told PEO in an interview.
Distri-Thai currently distributes 95 percent of English language magazines on sale in Thailand (a total of 800 titles), including The Economist and Cosmopolitan. Distri-Thai was started as a sole proprietorship 15 years ago by a Canadian national in Bangkok. Navis bought out the sole proprietor in 2001 – an investment made from its first fund – and has since formed a professional management team, in addition to implementing new business systems.
“The business has flourished under private equity ownership’ said Rick Phillips. “It is midway though an expansion programme, and it makes sense that the business continues under private equity ownership.”