SEEDING TECH ENLIGHTENMENT

Softbank bills itself as a leader in consumer-focused IT and media innovation, and with the formation of a new venture capital affiliate, the Japanese giant is betting that increasingly these innovations will come from across emerging Asia.

Softbank China & India Holdings has just reached a final close on its debut fund, Bodhi Investments LLC, which drew $110 million in commitments, primarily from anchor investors Softbank, Cisco Systems and Deutsche Bank.

The firm looks for early stage software, media, telecom and internet opportunities throughout Asia, excluding Japan and South Korea.

Bodhi Investments is led by Kabir Misra, a Bangalore native based in Hong Kong, who previously led Deutsche Bank's software and internet investment banking across Asia. Softbank head Masayoshi Son asked Misra to launch a new venture business that would capture tech growth in India and China. Misra convinced Son to broaden the mandate to include other emerging Asian nations, such as Vietnam. “There are a lot of arbitrage opportunities across geographies,” notes Misra.

The Bodhi team also includes Anna Lo, another former Deutsche Bank investment banker, Anil Viakara, founding partner of Horizen Ventures, Jay Chen, cofounder of ChinaVenture Investment Consulting, and William Bao Bean, a former Deutsche Bank research analyst covering Chinese internet and telecom companies. The professionals are spread across the regions in which Bodhi expects to invest.

Already the Bodhi team has invested roughly $20 million in startups across India, China, Singapore and Vietnam. Among the deals are two online gaming companies based in India and Singapore, respectively. Other deals include a security applications software business and a design tools business, both based in Bangalore, and a credit card marketing startup based in Beijing.

In two cases, Bodhi has been the sole investor in a company, and the firm usually leads financings.

“We'll look at anything that is consumer- and media-oriented, as long as it's geographically within Asia, ex-Japan, ex-Korea,” says Misra, who adds: “We have a full pipeline.”

Softbank, with a market capitalization of roughly $20 billion, is already affiliated with Softbank Capital, a US-focused venture capital firm. As Asia further develops its own versions of Silicon Valley, Bodhi will have access to plenty of additional capital should its early investments prove successful.

CLEARWATER CLOSES THIRD ASIA FUND ON $900M
New York-based distressed investor Clearwater Capital Partners has held a final close on $900 million (€655 million) for its third Asia fund – far exceeding its initial target of $500 million. Robert Petty, co-founder and managing partner, said: “The extremely robust investor interest we witnessed in the fundraising for Fund III is evidence that others share our enthusiasm for the region and the asset class.” Petty and Amit Gupta founded Clearwater in 2001. Both had previously worked at Amroc Investments where they gained experience in distressed debt and special situations during the Asian financial crisis of 1998. One of Clearwater's most high-profile deals was completed in August 2006 when it was part of a consortium including London's Ashmore Investment Management and Spinnaker Capital that bought Asia Netcom, a Hong Kong-based provider of telecoms services, from China Netcom Group for $402 million. Clearwater has $1.7 billion under management with offices in New York, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Seoul, Singapore and Beijing.

ING AND POMONA LAUNCH FUND OF FUNDS
The asset management business of Dutch bank ING and fund of funds Pomona Capital have created a joint fund of funds called ING Pomona Asia. The platform, based in Hong Kong, has appointed Dandan Liu as chief investment officer in the first appointment of a senior member of staff. Liu will report to New York-based Michael Granoff, chief executive of Pomona Capital, with Nick Toovey, regional head of equity at ING Investment Management, taking responsibility for local administration. Before joining ING, Liu worked at Pantheon Capital in Hong Kong. ING's fund of funds business in Asia has $370 million (€268 million) under management. Pomona Capital has $4 billion committed to its funds of funds.

CVC SNAPS UP TAIWANESE BLIND MAKER
CVC Asia Pacific, the pan-Asian buyout business, is attempting to buy Taiwan-listed Nien Made, a manufacturer of blinds and shutters, for NT$18 billion ($547 million; €399 million). The firm has offered NT$41.28 per share for the business. Nien Made's biggest shareholders have agreed to sell 174.5 million shares while CVC will settle for a minimum purchase of 218.6 million shares – just more than 50 percent of the total outstanding shares of 437 million.

LONGREACH INVESTS IN TAIWAN'S ENTIE BANK
The Longreach Group, a Japanfocused private equity firm, is buying a control stake in EnTie Commercial Bank in Taiwan in a deal worth NT$23 billion ($692 million; €520 million). The deal involves the purchase of 442 million secondary shares worth NT$4.2 billion from Hung Tai Group, the bank's biggest shareholder, and a subscription to NT$11 billion in convertible bonds issued by Hung Tai. Longreach will own 51 percent of the bank on completion. Longreach has made two other investments to date, both in Japan, in 2005 and 2006. The EnTie deal is Longreach's biggest investment to date. The firm manages $750 million and has offices in Japan and Hong Kong.

GENERAL ATLANTIC INVESTS $60M IN INDIAN IT BUSINESS
US growth capital firm General Atlantic has invested $60 million (€44 million) in India-based IBS Software Services. The business provides IT services to the travel, transportation and logistics industries, and its clients include airlines, airports, cruise lines, and oil and gas companies. The deal is General Atlantic's third investment in India in 2007. In June, the firm bought a 13 percent stake in Infotech Enterprises, a company that specialises in geospatial, design engineering and software services, for $75 million. In January, it bought a 10 percent stake in India's National Stock Exchange worth around $680 million. The firm made its first Indian investment in 2002 when it invested $100 million in IT business Patni and afterwards opened an office in Mumbai.

ADVENT PRIVATE CAPITAL APPOINTS INVESTMENT MANAGER
Melbourne-based Advent Private Capital has hired Symon Vegter as an investment manager to add to its five-strong team. Vegter previously worked in KPMG's mergers and acquisitions department where he advised private equity firms on a range of deals. The latest appointment follows the final close of Advent's fifth fund on A$300 million ($258 million; €189 million) in late 2006. In November, the firm backed the A$109 million management buyout of Locker Group, a manufacturer of metal products used in the general industrial, architectural building, commercial construction, infrastructure and resources sectors.