PEI Awards 2015: Asia winners

1. Baring Private Equity Asia
2. CVC Capital Partners
3. CITIC Capital Partners

Last year saw Baring Private Equity Asia close its sixth fund on its $3. 98 billion hard-cap – one of the largest funds raised by an Asia-based firm – having attracted commitments from the likes of the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System, Texas County & District Retirement System and New York State Common Retirement Fund.

Two headline-grabbing acquisitions from the fund included the $1.1 billion purchase of Vistra Group from IK Investment Partners and global fund administration and corporate services firm Orangefield Group.

The firm, led by chief executive Jean Eric Salata (pictured above), also sold its 14 percent stake in Lafarge India back to Lafarge in a deal valued at about $303 million. As of 2015, Baring Asia, whose funds hold more than $9 billion in committed capital across more than 70 companies globally, reported private equity returns exceeding Asian public market indices by 13 percent compounded per year.

Last year the firm also received investment from US-based Affiliated Managers Group (AMG), which acquired a 15 percent passive interest.

1. Navis Capital Partners
2. MBK Partners
3. Ascendent Capital Partners

The Malaysian flagship firm takes the spot for the third time despite consciously holding back its pace of investment compared with previous years.

Navis Capital Partners began the year with a bang, closing its seventh fund on its $1.5 billion target. The firm went on to take a majority stake in Dometic Medical Division as part of a management buyout deal, acquire Singapore’s Imperial Treasure Restaurant Group for around S$60 million-S$80 million ($43 million-$57 million; €38 million-€50 million), and sell Singapore’s largest hazardous waste management company ECO Industrial Environmental Engineering to China’s Beijing Capital Group for S$246 million.

Navis, led by co-managing partner Nicholas Bloy, also appointed former Macquarie Asia private equity head Hugh Dyus in May.

Navis closed the year on a high, exiting its investment in Thailand’s Golden Foods Siam, generating a 3. 3x money return and 24 percent IRR.

1. Government of Singapore Investment Corporation
2. Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan
3. Government Pension Investment Fund

GIC’s sophistication as a long-term value investor means it is often mimicked by other sovereign wealth funds in adopting a more hands-on investment attitude.

With more than 100 active fund relationships and 9 percent of its $345 billion-plus total assets invested in private equity and a third of its overall portfolio invested in Asia-Pacific, as well as pursuing an active co-investment and direct strategy, GIC remains one of the most energetic and best-funded LPs in the region.

Investments last year include $85 million in cosmetics ingredients supplier Bloomage BioTechnology Corporation, $4.5 billion for a majority stake in UK roadside recovery group RAC, about $185 million for a joint venture with Canada Pension Plan Investment Board to acquire D-Cube Retail Mall in Seoul, South Korea, as well as a slew of other property projects across India and China. GIC has increased its exposure to Asia from 27 percent to 30 percent, and has raised its exposure to North Asia, with the region now accounting for 15 percent of its holdings.

1. Temasek Holdings
2. Canada Pension Plan Investment Board
3. Government Pension Investment Fund

Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s state investor, has been an active investor in private equity funds for more than two decades, and 2015 was no exception. Its S$266 billion ($190 billion; €169 billion) is focused primarily in Asia, with around 10 percent of the portfolio held in third party managed funds and some shared with identified like-minded co-investors.

As well as being part of one of Asia’s largest ever private equity deals – the $6.1 billion takeover of South Korea’s Homeplus – Temasek was active across Asia, investing more than $700 million in India in the first quarter alone and taking part in the $2 billion funding round for Chinese Uber competitor Didi Kuaidi.

Its president, Lee Theng Kiat, said that these co-investment platforms help Temasek to “test market interest and fine-tune (its) thinking and product positioning for eventual participation by retail investors”.

1. HKBN (CVC Capital Partners)
2. Healthscope (TPG, The Carlyle Group)
3. CSPC Pharmaceutical Group (Hony Capital)

In March, CVC Capital Partners bagged a 3. 6x return on invested capital and an internal rate of return of 58 percent, cashing out most of its 71 percent stake, when it floated Hong Kong Broadband Network on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange after just a three-year holding period.

CVC bought HKBN, which offers high-speed internet to over 1.4 million subscribers in Hong Kong, from Hong Kong Television Network in May 2012 for about $628 million through CVC Asia Fund II, a 2008-vintage vehicle that closed on $4 billion. Three months later, it sold a $40 million stake to Singapore’s GIC and a $29 million stake to The Carlyle Group’s AlpInvest.

The trio sold shares after that, with CVC selling down its holding in the company from 70.7 percent to 14.4 percent, GIC selling down from 11.3 percent to 9.9 percent and AlpInvest selling an undisclosed stake.

1. GE Capital (KKR, Värde Partners, Deutsche Bank)
2. Ticket Monster (KKR, Pavilion Capital Partners, Anchor Equity Partners, CPPIB)
3. Vistra Group (Baring Private Equity Asia)

In one of the region’s largest private equity deals, global investor Värde Partners, private equity group KKR and Deutsche Bank scooped up GE Capital’s Australia and New Zealand consumer lending arm, with its three million customers and established relationships with major retailers, for A$8.2 billion ($6.3 billion; €6 billion).

The consortium reportedly paid around A$1.2 billion for the equity portion, split roughly equally between the three. Through the deal they hope to securitise around A$7 billion of debt they will acquire from the GE Capital unit, which will be led by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac, according to reports. The deal slimmed down GE’s business following the 2008-09 credit crisis. The three companies were advised by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Moelis and Citigroup.

1. NewQuest Capital Partners
2. TR Capital
3. ANT Capital

Last year was the Chinese year of the sheep, yet there was nothing sheepish about Hong Kong-based NewQuest Capital Partners’ 12-month period. The direct secondaries firm dived headfirst into 2015, deploying capital from its $326 million second vehicle, and by September had invested more than two thirds of the fund.

This is the second year in a row the pan-Asian firm has clinched this category and it’s not hard to see why: NewQuest made one of the biggest exits from its second fund with the $543 million sale of China Hydroelectric to Shenzhen Energy. On top of that, the firm launched a third secondaries vehicle and by all accounts has already raised more than half of its $500 million target.

With direct secondaries pegged to provide ample dealflow this year and with the Asian secondaries market continuing its steady rise, NewQuest seems poised to lead the flock.

1. Mizuho Financial Group (Lexington Partners)
2. StepStone
3. Hutton Collins

The year had barely begun when news surfaced of Mizuho Financial Group’s $1 billion portfolio sale to Lexington Partners. Banks around the world had been offloading private equity holdings to comply with the Volcker Rule, the US legislation that largely prohibits US banks and foreign banks with a US presence from holding the asset class on their books.

Lexington stepped in and picked up a stellar list of stakes from the Japanese bank, including interests in 3i, The Carlyle Group, Cinven, Charterhouse Capital Partners and PAI funds, to name a few. The firm then went on to raise the biggest ever secondaries fund, Lexington Capital Partners VIII, closing on $10.1 billion, proving that it could absorb a huge deal and raise a massive fund within the space of four months.

Mizuho is among the top 20 largest banks in the world, with assets of around $1.6 trillion in fiscal 2014.

1. Credit Suisse
2. Greenhill Cogent
3. Ark Totan Alternative

Are Asian secondaries booming? Yes, according to Credit Suisse, which saw dealflow from the region grow to around 15 percent of secondaries volume from an average 5 percent for the group in recent years. Credit Suisse’s private fund group leverages its Hong Kong, Seoul and Melbourne locations to source deals, and says its ability to tap its global network and banking platforms helps it identify potential sellers and buyers.

Asia-Pacific institutional investors are increasingly turning to the secondaries market to rebalance their fund portfolios, with Japanese and Australian pension funds and sovereign wealth funds coming to market with sizeable portfolio sales, according to Mark McDonald, head of EMEA and Asia secondary advisory at Credit Suisse.

What differentiates them? “Our team has sat on all sides of the table, as former buyers, sellers, consultants, lawyers, LPs and GPs,” McDonald said. “This gives us a unique approach when advising on a deal.”

1. Pacific Equity Partners
2. Crescent Capital Partners
3. Quadrant Private Equity

Australia and New Zealand’s largest private equity firm, Pacific Equity Partners, had a frenetic year during which it sold out of its almost decade-long investment in pension services business Link Group, bought into food and wellness company Manuka Health, and closed its fifth fund at just over A$2.1 billion ($1.5 billion; €1.35 billion).

Pacific Equity Partners V launched in May 2013, reached a first close on A$1.1 billion in May 2014, amassed A$1.5 billion by March 2015 and beat its hard-cap of A$2 billion in September. Other acquisitions on the domestic private equity scene include Pinnacle Bakery for A$250 million in March and Auckland-based private education company Academic Colleges Group for around $530 million in September.

The firm, which manages more than A$6 billion in assets, has also been linked to investments in Australia’s renewable energy sector, including Pacific Hydro and windfarm owner and operator Infigen Energy.

1. KKR
2. CDIB Capital International
3. Hony Capital

While private equity investing soared in China in 2014, persistently high valuations, fierce competition from corporate buyers and wariness about volatility somewhat dampened deal activity in 2015.

Global private equity giant KKR, however, saw that China remains rife with opportunity, especially in the agribusiness sector.

The firm’s $1 billion China Growth Fund, which was initially designed in 2011 to invest between $30 million and $75 million in exchange for minority stakes, purchased a significant stake in aquatic feed company Yuehai Feed Group Company for about $100 million.

This is KKR’s fifth food and agriculture-related investment in China, having invested in China Modern Dairy Holdings, Asia Dairy, COFCO Meat, and poultry processing company Fujian Sunner Development, which shows the firm’s strong commitment for a safer and more secure food supply in China.

2. Carlyle Group
3. Advantage Partners

J-STAR continues to hold onto its number one spot in Private Equity International’s firm of the year category in Japan. The Tokyo-based firm has had another busy year making three acquisitions in under six months from its J-STAR No. 2 Investment Limited Partnership, a 2012-vintage, ¥ 20 billion ($162 million; €149 million) vehicle.

Entering one of the world’s most robust and stable insurance sectors, J-STAR acquired insurer Nihon Hoken Service in May and completed an add-on acquisition of industry peer Sokisha Corporation only a few months later. The deals are part of a broader plan to embark on the consolidation of Japan’s insurance sector, which is already dominated by a handful of huge players.

The small-cap firm’s third investment was in December, acquiring energy saving solutions provider ESCO – a deal timely enough as Japan deregulates its retail electricity market in 2016.

1. MBK Partners
2. Anchor Equity Partners
3. Hahn & Company

Seoul-based MBK Partners has had a remarkable rise in the last decade from a start-up to the largest private equity firm in North Asia with more than $8 billion under management.

MBK sealed the largest M&A transaction in Korea and the largest buyout in the Asia-Pacific region in 2015 when the firm, together with Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Public Sector Pension Investment Board and Temasek Holdings acquired Tesco’s South Korean unit Homeplus from its UK parent company for a whopping $6.3 billion, seeing off rival bidders including buyout firms Affinity Equity Partners, KKR and Carlyle Group.

In November, a consortium including MBK and Goldman Sachs sold a 51 per cent stake in Japanese theme park Universal Studio Japan to ComCast’s NBC Universal – a deal that raised the company’s value to about $6 billion.

In June the firm invested in China-based logistics company Apex International Corporation, and shortly after sold Taiwan-based cable TV provider China Network Systems to Morgan Stanley Private Equity Asia and Far Eastone Telecommunications for $2.3 billion, marking a profitable exit for the firm.

1. Everstone Capital Partners
2. Accel Partners
3. Tata Capital

Backed by a stronger macroeconomic landscape, rising optimism and improved exit environment in India, Everstone Capital Partners mirrored the country’s growth story in 2015 as it continued to see a landscape ripe with opportunities.

A winner for the fifth consecutive year, Everstone, co-founded by Sameer Sain, closed its third fund on its impressive $730 million hard-cap in September, the largest India-dedicated private equity fund last year.

On the transaction front, Everstone made two acquisitions, picking up the Asia Pacific payroll business of AON Hewitt (now rebranded as Excelity Global) and Hindustan Unilever’s bread and bakery business Modern Bakery.

The firm exited its eight-year investment in Global Hospitals with its sale to Malaysia’s Parkway Hospitals, generating a 3x return on investment, and before the year ended re-invested in New Delhi-based publisher S Chand, paving the way for the company’s IPO plans.

Everstone also boosted its investment team, hiring Walt Disney executive Roshini Bakshi and Unilever’s Rajev Shukla as managing directors, and Citibank executive Bhavna Thakur as head of capital markets and exits.

1. Aberdeen Asset Management
2. Navis Capital
3. Creador

This is Aberdeen Asset Management’s first win as firm of the year in South-East Asia. It was a year when Aberdeen flexed its muscles in the region, acquiring FLAG Capital Management to expand its alternatives platform. Combined with the acquisition of US hedge fund group Arden Asset Management in August last year, the group has now more than doubled total alternative assets under management to $30 billion under global head of alternatives Andrew McCaffery.

In October, Aberdeen held a final close of Flag Private Equity VI on $295 million, $70 million above its initial target.

Through its acquisition of FLAG, which bought Asia-focused fund of funds business Squadron Capital in 2012, the UK-based firm has become a regional player with a presence in 14 Asian markets, and 2016 looks set to be an exciting year in the region for the firm.

1. Dragon Capital
2. Mekong Capital
3. VinaCapital

Vietnam’s Dragon Capital has been investing across Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines and Sri Lanka for almost two decades. Its Mekong Brahmaputra Clean Development Fund I, a 2010-vintage vehicle, is almost fully deployed, having made new investments last year in solar photovoltaic, small hydro and solid waste management companies.

The firm, which has assets under management of around $1.4 billion, plans to market a second clean development fund in early 2016, targeting $100 million to invest in sustainable development in low carbon business growth opportunities.

In October, the Ho Chih Minh-based firm, which also has offices in Hanoi, Bangkok, Hong Kong and the UK, teamed up with Standard Chartered Bank Vietnam to sponsor and launch the Vietnam Fintech Club, which aims to support the country's fintech sector.

1. Aberdeen Asset Management
2. LGT Capital Partners
3. Asia Alternatives

In a series of transformational acquisitions, including of FLAG Squadron Asia completed this year and SVG’s Asia businesses, global fund of funds investor Aberdeen Asset Management, led in Asia by Myron Zhu, has consolidated its position as a standout player in the regional market.

The build-up of its Asian fund of fund’s business from its headquarters in Singapore and six other investment centres across the region means the firm has one of the broadest private equity portfolios in Asia with more than 60 GP relationships. Its investments span venture capital to buyouts, and small to large-cap.

Asian clients make up 7 percent of the global group’s total assets under management of £284 billion ($415 billion; €370 million) at the end of September, according to its 2015 annual report. This is set to grow as it recently obtained a licence to operate in China where it plans to expand its Shanghai representative office with additional research and business development staff.

1. SSG Capital Management
2. PAG
3. Shoreline Capital

SSG Capital Management’s dominance in the Asian distressed debt market continued in 2015, supported by its track record in special situation funds.

The pan-Asian asset manager has raised three special situation funds to date. Special Situations Fund III closed at $915 million in 2014 and returns are tracking above 20 percent without the use of leverage at fund level.

“Banks are capital constrained and have enough troubled assets on their books. They are looking to find homes for them. So that’s another good source for us. Usually when times are good, banks are less willing to let go of these assets,” says Edwin Wong, SSG’s managing partner and chief investment officer.

Looking forward to 2016, he envisages even brighter prospects for distressed lending in Asia on the back of public market falls and volatility.

1. Eaton Partners
2. UBS Private Funds Group
3. Mercury Capital Advisors

Last year was not an easy one for Asia fundraisings and Eaton Partners had to beat tough competition from its peers to jump from third place to the 2015 top spot. Among its achievements it helped Hong Kong-based ADV Partners close its first-time fund on $545 million, smashing its initial target of $500 million and making it the largest Asian debut last year.

In total, the firm guided five Asia managers to close fundraisings totalling an impressive $3. 2 billion. Its focus was not limited to primary deals and the firm advised on more than $300 million of completed secondaries transactions.

From its offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai, it advised a diverse group of clients such as buyout giant CDIB Capital International, fund of funds manager Asia Alternatives, and Chinese/US growth capital firm WestSummit Capital. An active promoter of the industry in Asia, the firm jointly organised the Limited Partners’ Association of China’s 2015 GP Summit.

1. King & Wood Mallesons
2. Debevoise & Plimpton
3. Dechert

With its unique platform across China, Australia and Singapore, the King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) team acts for a large share of local and regional sponsor clients across Asia. The firm made an impressive showing with its work on China-focused vehicles, and was especially active in the TMT and pharmaceutical industries, including its work with TVM Capital Life Science on the first closing of its China BioPharma Capital Fund, raising more than $50 million in commitments. Dongfang Zhike, owned by Citi Orient Securities Co., also turned to KWM when establishing an investment fund with Guohua Life Insurance.

The firm also displayed the breadth of its knowledge across the private asset classes advising AMP Capital on several Indian infrastructure funds and Ascendas on its Australian hotel investments and the Ascendas Hospitality Trust IPO.

1. Clifford Chance
2. Kirkland & Ellis
3. Dechert

Clifford Chance is no stranger to taking the top spot in this category, and with one look at its extensive activity in the region for 2015, it’s clear to see why. The firm continued working with some of the biggest private equity players in the region on some of the most complicated deals.

When CVC Asia Pacific acquired 15 percent of the share capital of Rizal Commercial Banking, listed in the Philippines, for $115 million, the firm called on Clifford Chance. The Magic Circle firm also worked on multiple deals for The Carlyle Group, such as its acquisition of an indirect 36.8 percent stake from funds controlled by General Electric Company in Hong Kong and its joint venture with Huo’s Group to buy Shell’s 75 percent stake in Tongyi Lubricants.