Rohatyn opens Seoul office

Korea offers geographical diversification for private equity investors with US and European-weighted portfolios, plus its sound regulatory environment, strong deal flow, and active local LP base are attractive draws, Rohatyn partner Chris Seaver says.

The Rohatyn Group has opened a new office in Seoul, Korea, its 15th office worldwide and eighth in Asia, the New York-based emerging markets investor said in a statement.

TRG said the office was set up to target private equity opportunities in Korea, a market where fund managers have raised a record KRW 10.2 trillion ($9.1 billion; €8.1 billion) in 2015, Korea’s financial regulator said.

TRG, which has over $7 billion in assets under management, has made investments in Korea including fried chicken franchiser BHC Company which it bought in 2013. The firm then expanded its portfolio through bolt-on acquisitions of meat eateries Big Two and Bokang Enterprise.

TRG partner Chris Seaver, who joined the firm in February from Hong Kong-based CLSA Capital Partners, said “establishing a formal presence in Korea is the logical extension of our Asia private equity strategy”.

“Korea is an appealing diversification alternative for investors whose private equity portfolios are heavily weighted towards the US and Europe,” Seaver said. “Moreover, Korea’s sound and predictable regulatory environment, proven examples of successful exits, and active local LP base add to the attractiveness of the country.”

Gordon Cho, TRG managing director, will lead the firm’s operations in Seoul.

Cho said: “Korean deal flow remains strong, driven by continued chaebol [Korean for a family-owned conglomerate] restructurings, secondary deals, and companies looking for a broader set of financing options. We see Korean companies as strong candidates for expansion in Asia, a core area of expertise for TRG, given the high quality and popularity of Korean products.”

Other private equity firms like Bain Capital and TPG Capital have also been ramping up their presence in Korea. In July, Bain acquired a controlling stake in Seoul-based cosmetic company Carver, while last month, TPG appointed former Morgan Stanley Private Equity managing director Sanghoon Lee as a partner to lead the firm’s investments in the country.