Ex-CLSA execs in Myanmar debut

A new investment company set up by former CLSA private equity executives has closed its first deal in the country, which is in an early stage for PE investing.

Anthem Asia, an investment company set up by former private equity executives at CLSA Capital Partners, has made a debut investment in Myanmar, acquiring office services provider Hintha Business Centres for $1 million, according to a company statement.

Josephine Price, the firm’s co-founder who in the past had set up the growth capital business at CLSA, told Private Equity International, “There is a shortage of grade A office accommodation in Myanmar and there is also a shortage of services [provided by] competent people who know what they’re doing. So we see this as an opportunity to provide this service and to grow the capability of companies that are operating in the market.”

We think that [Myanmar] is a frontier market where the investment cycle is going to be fairly turbulent – if you look at the lessons of Vietnam or Cambodia – and therefore we need to concentrate on very sustainable longer term investments

Josephine Price, co-founder, Anthem Asia

Price and co-founder Genevieve Heng, who is also a former CLSA executive, opted to establish Anthem as an investment company, which holds capital from a high net-worth individual, rather than a typical private equity 10-year blind pool fund. The model eliminates the pressure to do deals of a certain size as well as the holding period limitations of a traditional private equity fund. 

She believes Myanmar is an attractive market for private investors, but deal sizes will be small and holding periods must remain flexible. 

“I think it is inappropriate to raise large amounts of money for a country where you will find it tough to do an investment outside of property or infrastructure that is more than a million or two in this initial phase. Possibly in two to three years’ time [Myanmar] could be a normal, investible private equity market.” 

Price believes Myanmar has opportunity, but early stage risks are high. 

“We think that this is a frontier market where the investment cycle is going to be fairly turbulent – if you look at the lessons of Vietnam or Cambodia – and therefore we need to concentrate on very sustainable longer term investments.”