ADIA steps up Asia directs with KKR hire

Kabir Mathur, head of private equity for India and South-East Asia for the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, will play a key role in building the SWF’s direct investing capabilities in the region.

The man hired by Abu Dhabi Investment Authority to run its private equity operations for India and South-East Asia has a mission to build its direct investment capabilities in the region.

Kabir Mathur, who was hired for the newly created position from KKR in July, will play a key role in the $828 billion sovereign wealth fund’s ongoing efforts to restructure its private equity business, as revealed in 2016.

ADIA restructured its investment professionals into teams based on region – Americas, EMEA and Asia – and sector – healthcare, financial services, industrials, technology and consumer. ADIA’s private equity business was previously split into funds, secondaries, principal investments, venture capital and debt.

Aside from Mathur, another senior appointment underscoring ADIA’s retooled strategy was Nancy Ku’s. She was previously president and chief executive of GE Capital China and joined ADIA in October as head of Asia-Pacific, private equities.

According to industry insiders, Mathur has spent his private equity career on deals and portfolio management, starting out as an executive at TPG in 2006, before moving to KKR in 2008, where he is known to have been part of its first deals team in Singapore tasked to invest about $1 billion in South-East Asia through its $6 billion second Asia fund. At KKR he was involved in transactions such as Vietnamese consumer group Masan and Singapore-based bulk container maker Goodpack.

It makes sense then that his mission at ADIA is to build its direct investment capabilities for South-East Asia and India. A Hong Kong-based placement agent tells PEI: “Mathur has been there twice to be able to see the growth of a global organisation in Asia so, to do the same thing in ADIA makes a lot of sense.”

This direct investment push has been evident in recent years. ADIA invested 55 percent of its assets with external managers in 2017, down from 60 percent in 2016, according to its annual report published in April this year. Eighty percent of its assets were managed by external GPs in 2011.

ADIA’s move from generalist to direct and specialist investor is not surprising. Global institutional investors such as Canadian pensions and Singapore-state backed LPs have increasingly focused their investments on emerging markets and in sectors that tap into the world’s rising middle-class consumers, such as India and China.

Technology, life sciences, agribusiness, non-bank financial services and consumer made up nearly half of Temasek’s new investments last year, according to its annual report. Meanwhile, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board has reported a 65 percent rise in emerging markets private equity assets from its previous financial year.

Mathur will have his work cut out. As the placement agent notes: “We might not have a lot of deals in South-East Asia – certainly not the large-ticket deals KKR does in North Asia – but there will always be deals to be done.”