UK private equity firm Actis targets sharp rise in Asian investors

Company’s partner in charge of global fundraising says in the next 5-7 years, Asian investors are expected to account for 30pc, up from the current 20pc of entire 235 client base

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 June, 2018, 9:45am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 June, 2018, 9:45am

Actis, the British private equity firm, is making a concerted push into Asia-Pacific to ride on the rising tide of an economically maturing China and growing population of sophisticated regional investors, says its partner in charge of global fundraising.

Neil Brown said that in the next five to seven years, Asian investors are expected to account for 30 per cent of the firm’s client base, up from 20 per cent of its current 235 clients globally.

“If you look at how institutional capital is spreading around the world, about 30 per cent of it is in Asia-Pacific and it’s where I think we should be,” said Brown, noting the firm is well under way to ratchet up its Asian investors exposure.

“We have made a real push to make sure we are well represented in the region,” Brown said, stressing what he sees as its urgency to cater to the burgeoning appetite of institutional investors in China as the economy expands.

We have made a real push to make sure we are well represented in the region
Neil Brown, partner in charge of global fundraising, Actis

Ellen Li, the company’ s newly appointed head of its Asian fundraising business, said the London-based firm is also poised to extend its reach beyond its established investor network, such as sovereign wealth funds.

The firm is seeking to tap the demand for investing by super rich individuals, corporate players and even cash-rich start-ups, to build its presence in Asia, as well as Africa and Latin America, she said.

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Actis was set up in 2004 after being spun out of out the UK government’s development finance institution CDC Group, an agency created in 1948 to promote private-sector investment in former British territories, especially in the energy, infrastructure, financial and consumer goods sectors.

Neil said the firm enjoys a natural affinity with China’s ambitious infrastructure-led trade programme, the Belt and Road Initiative, in terms of location, infrastructure and energy.

“Our long-time investments in infrastructure and energy fit nicely with the Belt and Road,” he said. “There is a natural overlap between the initiative and what we do already.”

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The current trade tensions between China and the United States, and the latter’s increased scrutiny on deals has left Chinese investors cautious in making investments there, which might be another impetus for players such as Actis to focus more on developing nations.

According to Morrison & Foerster, the international law firm with 16 offices throughout the US, Asia, and Europe, since last year there has been a noticeable sea change in Chinese investors’ short- to medium-term interests to non-US targets, such as those in Southeast Asia, Israel and Europe,

Actis is in the midst of buying Standard Chartered Bank’s real estate investment unit, which holds around US$700 million in investments, mainly across India, China, South Korea and Southeast Asia, Reuters recently reported. But Neil declined to comment on the deal.