TPG Asia partner Mary Ma to depart

Ma, who was CFO of Lenovo prior to joining TPG, is reportedly setting up a fund with Louis Cheung, president of Chinese insurer Ping An.

The trend of Chinese nationals leaving Western private equity groups' Asia operations to strike out on their own continues: Mary Ma, partner and managing director of TPG Capital in China, is leaving the global private equity firm, two sources confirmed to PE Asia.

According to one source, there is not any direct replacement planned given TPG already has 37 professionals in China and continues to grow.

TPG declined to comment.

Ma joined TPG in September 2007. She was previously CFO for Hong Kong-listed PC company Lenovo Group, a portfolio company in which TPG has been reducing its stake since November 2007. Ma played a critical role in Lenovo’s acquisition of IBM’s personal computer business in 2005, which marked the largest overseas acquisition by a Chinese company at the time and was in part funded by a private placement of shares sold by its private equity backers TPG, General Atlantic and Newbridge.

Ma left TPG to launch a fund with Louis Cheung, executive director and president of Chinese insurer Ping An Insurance who will step down in March, according to a Financial Times report,

In November last year, Ping An said Cheung’s impending departure was due to personal reasons. Cheung has held various senior positions in Ping An since his joining in February 2000. Prior to that, Cheung was a global partner of McKinsey & Company, advising financial services clients across Asia.

The relationship between Ma and Cheung might be sourced back to TPG’s exit of Shenzhen Development Bank (SDB), in which the firm invested $145 million for a 16.76 percent stake in 2004.

In May last year, the Chinese insurer purchased TPG’s holding of 520.5 million shares in SDB in exchange for 299 million newly issued Ping An shares. As such, the transaction saw TPG fully exit its stake in SDB and become a 4 percent shareholder in Ping An.

TPG then raised a total about $2.4 billion through two share sales, which translates to a 16.5x return on the firm’s original investment – a landmark return on a landmark private equity transaction.

The investment in SDB was led by Weijian Shan, who also left TPG in June last year. He originally planned to set up his own fund but ultimately decided to join Hong Kong-based Pacific Alliance Group, where he is chairman and chief executive officer. Currently, the firm is raising an Asia-focused buyout fund targeting $2.5 billion.

Another example of Chinese executives leaving western firms to launch their own private equity funds is Fred Hu, former chairman of Greater China at Goldman Sachs who left the US bank in March last year.

Hu set up Primavera Capital Group and is currently in the market for a fund with a reported target of $10 billion. According to a Reuters report at the time, Singaporean sovereign fund Temasek Holdings, Goldman Sachs and an investment arm of China Construction Bank are expected to commit to the fund.

Interestingly, Chinese media suggested that the last transaction Hu advised on before he left Goldman Sachs was Ping An’s acquisition of SDB.