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Partners Group, the listed Swiss alternative assets manager, has further grown its presence in the Asian market with a new office in Sydney, Australia. Having opened its first office in the region in Singapore in 2004, a Tokyo office was added in September last year.

Christoph Rubeli, head of Asian markets for Partners Group, said: “We wanted to position ourselves properly in the Australian landscape in order to benefit existing client relationships in the country and penetrate further into the market.”

He added that the Sydney office would enable the firm to better develop relationships with Australia's giant superannuation funds while also allowing it to source more secondary and direct investment opportunities. Partners Group has already completed a number of deals in the country including a May 2006 coinvestment in Super A-Mart, a furniture retailer acquired by an Ironbridge Capital-led consortium for A$500 million (€293 million; $461 million).

Partners Group had previously made a significant announcement in relation to the Australian market in December last year when it teamed with Australian investment consultant JANA Investment Advisers to launch a multi-manager hedge fund product in the country.

The Sydney office will be staffed by Mike Siebert, who has worked in Partners' Singapore office since 2004, and Martin Scott, who has helped build up Zurich Financial Services' business in Australia. According to a press release, the duo will assume responsibility for business development, investment origination and client relationships.

“Australia looks very attractive from a returns perspective,” said Rubeli. “The large public-to-private end of the market is passive, but the mid-market will do very well.”

Rubeli added that he would not exclude the possibility of Partners Group opening additional offices in Asia in the coming years, noting that the regulatory environment had improved in countries such as Taiwan, Korea and Thailand. He also said an Indian office might be of interest “at some point”.

Based in Zug, near Zurich, Partners Group has bases in San Francisco, New York, London and Guernsey in addition to its Asian offices. The firm, which is listed on the SWX Swiss Exchange, has a market capitalisation of over CHF4 billion (€2.5 billion; $4 billion) and more than CHF24 billion in alternative investment programmes under management.

INDIA'S KOTAK REACHES $440M
Mumbai-based Kotak Investment Advisors, a subsidiary of Kotak Mahindra Bank, has raised $440 million (€279 million) for its third private equity fund. The fund saw its first and final close within three months of commencing fundraising, the firm said in a statement. The fund was raised from Kotak Mahindra's existing client base, and included institutional investors and high net worth individuals, the firm said. The Kotak India Growth Fund II will be managed by the Kotak Private Equity Group, part of Kotak Investment Advisors, which manages two other funds, Kotak India Venture Fund and Kotak India Growth Fund I. In its largest fund to date, the firm will continue with the investment strategy of its previous fund and will look to invest $15 million to $40 million per deal in businesses across diverse sectors.

DIC INVESTMENT IN GOOD HEALTH
Middle Eastern firm Dubai International Capital (DIC) has invested in True Group, an Asian wellness service provider. Patrick Wee, founder and chief executive officer of True Group said DIC would hold a significant minority stake in True. DIC did not disclose either the stake it bought in True Group or the amount paid. Founded in 2004, True Group started operations in Singapore as a fitness, yoga and wellness group. Over the last few years, the group has opened wellness centres in other countries such as Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand to become one of the largest yoga and wellness groups in the region. True provides yoga, spa, fitness and treatments to customers through 17 centres that it operates in these four countries.

JAPAN BUYOUT FUND LAUNCHED
Mitsubishi Corporation, one of Japan's largest general trading companies, and Mitsubishi UFJ Securities, the investment banking arm of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, are setting up a ¥100 billion ($1 billion; €635 million) buyout fund to invest in Japanese companies. The fund will make investments in companies that are “in need of capital for business integration, spinning-off non-core divisions or subsidiaries, growth stage business or joint investment,” the firms said in a statement. Capital will be provided to companies in the form of stock, convertible bonds and subordinated debt. The fund will be managed by a fund management company which will be formed as a 50:50 joint venture between the two firms.

PROPEL GETS 2.5X CASH FROM HERBAL PRODUCTS FIRM
Propel Investments, a Sydney-based private equity manager, has sold its 40 percent stake in Australian herbal health products provider MediHerb to Thompson Group, a distributor of health supplements. MediHerb produces herbal products and supplies them to Australian customers. It also exports to Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the US. Peter Dowding, a managing director at Propel Investments, said in a statement the sale of MediHerb will realise more than 2.5 times investment cost. Propel Investments told PrivateEquityOnline.com that it realised A$20 million ($18.27 million; €11.5 million) from the sale of its stake in the company. The investment in MediHerb was made in April 1999, giving the firm a 2.5 times cash return from the exit in nine years. The firm is currently raising its third fund, and the first since it spun out of Deutsche Bank's Australian private equity business division in the latter half of 2007.

PACIFIC EQUITY CLOSES ON A$4BN
Pacific Equity Partners, an Australian private equity firm, has closed PEP Fund IV on A$4 billion ($3.7 billion; €2.3 billion), making it the firm's largest fund to date. The firm's previous fund, PEP Fund III, had closed on A$1.3 billion. Tim Sims, one of the founders of Pacific Equity Partners, told sister website PrivateEquityOnline.com the fund had a dry close for investors at about A$3 billion in June last year, following which the firm decided to hold off fundraising till the remaining capital from Fund III was committed. The firm began bringing on board new investors for this fund following its acquisition of cinema operator Hoyts at the end of last year. Sims said that while the investor base for fund IV was still endowment-focussed as in the previous funds, it was more diversified this time around. The fund drew investors from the US, Europe, Middle East and from across Southeast Asia, he said. The fund will retain the investment strategy of its predecessors and will focus on mid-market buyout deals in diverse sectors. It will invest in businesses that are based in Australia or New Zealand and have an enterprise value of between A$300 million and A$2 billion, said Sims.

NEW FUND FOR SOUTHEAST ASIA
Indonesia-based Arapima is raising a $150 million (€95 million) Southeast Asian fund that will target mid-market consumer and retail companies with enterprise values between $20 million and $50 million. “We really believe the mid-market space in Indonesia has been neglected,” Arapima managing director Stefan White said. “The private equity space in Southeast Asia is very new.” Arapima is one of a small but growing number of Indonesia-based private equity firms seeking to exploit post-Asian financial crisis opportunities in Southeast Asia. Other fund managers with offices on the island chain include TPG-backed North Star, Saratoga Capital Asia and Quvat Management.

ADIA ‘NOT FOREIGN POLICY TOOL’
The Abu Dhabi Government has sought to reassure the US over the growing influence of sovereign wealth funds, insisting it has not and would not use its investments as a “foreign policy tool”. The move comes as California considers restricting its pensions from investing in certain sovereign-backed private equity funds and as Congress examines possible ramifications of US assets owned by sovereign funds. Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, is one of the world's largest with an estimated size of between $500 billion (€316.5 billion) and $900 billion. In a letter to US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, dated 12 March and appearing in the Wall Street Journal, Abu Dhabi's international affairs director Yousef Al Otaiba said ADIA should be treated like US pension funds, arguing the aim of the fund is to invest Abu Dhabi's oil reserves for the future benefit of its people.

SWICORP BACKS POLYSILICON PLANT
Swicorp Joussour, an energy-focussed private equity unit owned by financial services firm Swicorp, the Chemical Development Corporation of Saudi Arabia and solar energy company NorSun, have invested in the construction of a polysilicon plant in the industrial city of Jubail in Saudi Arabia. NorSun will own 50 percent of the company, with the other two companies holding the remainder. Terms were undisclosed. Commercial production of polysilicon, the raw material used in solar energy, is planned to commence in 2010, allowing for subsequent expansions to a capacity of 2,000 megawatts per year.