Buyout firm hoping former Hong Kong financial secretary can help secure major deals in mainland Hong Kong's former financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung has been hired by United States-based buyout fund Blackstone Group to run its new China office and help it seek key deals in the mainland. 'I am delighted to join Blackstone, the world's foremost private equity firm,' Mr Leung (right) said. 'Blackstone's tremendous financial strength and skills, together with its vast global network of strategic partners, will enable us to bring significant benefits to the region.' Mr Leung was the financial secretary from 2001 to 2003. He was at the centre of a scandal that some observers said forced him to step down. He had bought a Lexus shortly before new taxes on luxury vehicles he planned to raise became publicly known. Before joining the government, he was JP Morgan's chairman in Asia and the head of north Asia investment banking at Citigroup. Mr Leung will become Blackstone's senior managing director and run the Hong Kong-based office with the fund's other senior managing director, Ben Jenkins. 'We believe the significant foreign direct investment in the Chinese economy is vital to its continued growth and development and look forward to playing an integral role in that process,' Blackstone chairman Stephen Schwarzman said. Blackstone is following in the footsteps of rivals such as Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), which set up regional offices last year, as well as Bain Capital and Carlyle Group. 'The industry has matured in Asia enough for the big boys to come and clearly they see China as the place,' said one industry player. However, changing regulations and in many cases, opaque financial disclosure at domestic firms, make the mainland a difficult market for buyout funds to pull off large multibillion-dollar deals. Carlyle was forced to scale back to a 50 per cent stake a planned buyout of Xugong Group Construction Machinery, the mainland's largest construction machinery maker. Carlyle had wanted to take an 85 per cent interest. Smaller deals such as Goldman Sachs' US$262 million acquisition of China's largest meat processor Shineway Group and the US$181 million buyout of China's Gum Holdings, the world's second-largest maker of a food additive, have succeeded but not without lengthy transaction times. Blackstone, which figured in four of the 10 largest global buyouts last year, has yet to pull off any large transaction in the mainland. The company's US$36 billion takeover of Equity Office Properties, a US property firm, is its largest buyout on record. Big buyout companies operating in Asia have had more success in India and Taiwan. KKR last year paid US$900 million for Flextronics Software Systems, which runs most of its operations from India, while Carlyle paid US$1.5 billion for Taiwan's cable-television provider Eastern Multimedia. Global private equity buyouts rose to a record high of US$734 billion last year, more than double the US$353 billion in 2005, according to Dealogic. Asia showed the largest volume growth of any market, rising six times last year to account for US$47 billion of global buyouts.