Investors find a new craze

JUST as funding leveraged buyouts by high-risk junk bonds were a favourite vehicle for US investors seeking a quick return in the 1980s so the 1990s is throwing up its own genre of investment themes.

Emerging markets were the big idea of 1993 for US investors in particular, and now it seems direct investment in those countries' infrastructure needs is the go for 1994.

New funds are mushrooming, with the likes of successful 80s investor George Soros joining the game in recent weeks.

Next in line with a fund of US$800 million is the giant US financial adviser and fund manager, American International Group (AIG), which is establishing its very own vehicle to be named the Asian Infrastructure Fund.

With so many being set up at the same time, there is a rush for an original name; Peregrine launched an infrastructure fund with the very same name last week.

Imagine you have a war chest full of cash and are off to the power-hungry hinterlands of China and ready to do deals. Easy, right? The Chinese authorities are crying out for foreign participation to increase their generative capacity.

That's what Goldman Sachs and China Venturetech figured late last year when they arranged a private placement for a number of big ticket international investors to establish a joint venture with the Shandong Power Bureau.

The deal saw the Shandong authority as both the provider and purchaser of electricity with the investors taking a stake in the plants themselves.

According to sources all seemed well until a number of highly-placed figures in China began running over the deal in detail. It is said they included officials at the China Securities and Regulatory Commission and, interestingly, Premier Li Peng's daughter.

The story is that Ms Peng took a long hard look at the numbers and concluded the deal was ''too rich'' for the foreign investors. It is believed she relayed her reservations to her father, who agreed and declared the deal a dead duck.

The Shandong Power Bureau will still get its injection of capital, but in the form of a direct listing on a foreign exchange.

Another Li offspring, this time a son, is an executive director of Huangeng International Power Development. The company is on the list for the next batch of H-share listings. The Hong Kong vogue for knocking down hotels in favour of fancy office developments would seem to be continuing unabated. The latest face to exit the scene will be the Miramar hotel located in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Following the takeover battle for the Miramar group last summer, which ultimately saw Henderson Investment take a 34.8 per cent stake in the company, it had long been expected that the site would be redeveloped for more profitable use.

A spokesman for Miramar said: ''The directors have taken no final decision.'' But other company sources indicated that they had and it was just a matter of making the announcement.