Backseat for buyouts

As 3i’s Anil Ahuja-led Asian operations are focusing on growth capital investments, the firm’s Asian buyout head, David Osborne, has left the firm after 25 years.

3i Group’s David Osborne will give up his role as head of the firm’s Asian buyout operations to join CapAsia, a Singapore-headquartered infrastructure investment business. Osborne has worked at London-listed 3i for 25 years, formerly in UK-based roles and latterly in the firm’s Singapore office.

A spokeswoman for 3i confirmed Osborne’s departure and wished him well, adding that growth capital investing is the predominant focus for 3i’s Asian activity – ahead of buyouts and infrastructure – given the nature of the continent’s private equity markets. 3i’s buyout and infrastructure business lines are run on a global, rather than regional, basis, she added.

Osborne’s departure is the latest development in what has been a period of change for 3i’s Asian operations. In early 2009, we revealed on that Chris Rowlands, then chairman of 3i Asia, was

Anuja: growth-focus


to retire. His departure followed the promotion of Anil Ahuja – then co-head of Asia along with Mark Thornton – to head of Asia. Ahuja remains head of Asia, while Thornton heads the Southeast Asia team.

London-listed 3i has emerged from a period of consolidation, during which it has cut costs, halted new investments and deleveraged its balance sheet. In May the firm revealed it would commence making deals, having made good progress in reducing its net debt levels.

One of the earliest cost-cutting measures instigated by the firm involved a shake-up of its Asian business. In late 2008, 3i told the market it would be closing its Hong Kong and Shanghai offices and relocating its Chinese deal teams to its Beijing office.

Osborne is joining CapAsia to head the firm’s Islamic infrastructure fund. CapAsia is a joint venture between Malaysian financial services group CIMB and Johannesburg-headquartered Standard Bank. It was known as CIMB Standard until it rebranded as in June. The firm, which invests in non-BRIC emerging Asia, currently manages about $460 million and expects to see its assets under management double within the next two years.

Osborne is one of the two senior hires unveiled in June by CapAsia. Craig Martin, like Osborne, joins CapAsia as managing director. Formerly investment director for Prudential and the head of private equity for the firm’s Vietnam fund operations, Martin will head the Southeast Asia Strategic Assets Fund I and its successor fund, for which fundraising is due to begin in the third quarter of 2010.