EastBridge eyes deals in China, Vietnam – Exclusive

EastBridge Partners, which invests in South Korean mid-market companies, is already in the process of closing its first overseas acquisition, a retail business based in Taiwan.

Seoul-based EastBridge Partners said it will be focusing on “expanding its investments overseas especially in Greater China and Vietnam as it sees lucrative investments in growth industries in these markets”, EastBridge chief executive officer and managing partner Kevin Lim told Private Equity International.

The firm, which invests in Korean mid-market companies valued at between $50 million to $500 million, targets technology, machinery, automotive, biotechnology, and consumer goods companies.

Lim added that in two to three years, he expects the firm to have around half of its portfolio invested in pan-Asian countries. The firm is also in the process of closing its first overseas deal, a retail business in Taiwan. The name of the business has not yet been disclosed.

EastBridge is currently investing its second fund, EastBridge Asian Mid-Market Opportunities Fund II, which raised $190 million last year. Last week, the firm invested in kitchen appliance maker Happycall alongside Goldman Sachs. Financial terms were not disclosed but the deal would reportedly value the company at KRW 180 billion ($160 million; €142 million), according to a report from Reuters.

EastBridge Asian Mid-Market Opportunities Fund I, the firm’s vintage-2012 debut fund, which raised $135 million, will be fully liquidated in the first half 2018, Lim said.

Fund I mainly invested in companies that rode the “Korean wave” in Asia, fuelled by the popularity of Korean-made mobile phones and technology, while Fund II invested in biotechnology and consumer goods companies, Lim noted.

It has made investments in LCD and touch screen maker Nepes Display, online games company Wiple Games, and industrial toolmaker Daesung Hi-Tech.

Both funds are 100 percent shariah-compliant, Lim noted, as limited partners in the funds are sovereign wealth funds and high net worth investors from the Middle East.

EastBridge, which manages $520 million of assets, was founded in 2011 by Kevin Lim, a former CEO of STIC Investments, one of the oldest private equity and venture capital firms in Korea.