Report: Cerberus to shut down Hong Kong office

The US buyout firm is reportedly closing its office in Hong Kong. Its plans for its Taipei and Beijing offices remain unclear.

New York-based Cerberus Capital Management is close to shutting down its office in Hong Kong, less than two years after it was established, people familiar with the matter told the Financial Times.

Cerberus opened its Hong Kong and Beijing offices to lead its push into China following the hire of John Snow, the former Treasury secretary, as chairman of the firm in 2006.

While the Hong Kong closure is characterised as being more or less a “done deal”, the report said the firms' intentions as regards its offices in Beijing or Taipei are unknown.

Cerberus’ move follows in the footsteps of UK-based 3i, which said in December 2008 it will close its Hong Kong and Shanghai offices and relocate its Chinese dealmakers to Beijing as part of its cost cutting measures. For many private equity firms, the closure of Asian offices coincides with global staff reductions amid market distress.

Besides the shutting down Asian offices, a few Western buyout groups have seen senior level departures in Asia.

Tomayo Shiraishi, Permira’s co-head of Japan, left the firm at the end of 2008 to “pursue his own personal interests”. Naohiko Kitsuta, a managing director at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts’ Tokyo office, resigned in December. Justin Chang, a partner at global private equity firm TPG, ended his 16-year tenure at the firm in January. In the same month, the firm appointed Stephen Peel to head its emerging markets operations in Asia. Peel replaced Dan Carroll, who returned to San Francisco and will be in charge of the firm’s Australia and Japan operations.

Cerberus was not available for comment at press time.