When the coronavirus outbreak first began, Nainesh Jaisingh and his team at private equity firm Affirma Capital began reviewing operations at portfolio companies, ensuring there was a six-month cash flow runway. The seasoned executives had seen their share of crises, including the SARS pandemic in 2003.
But as the global health crisis deepened and spread, Affirma Capital CEO Nainesh Jaisingh began to review even those plans.
“It turns out that we had underestimated the impact and none of the old playbooks were really applicable,” he told DealStreetAsia in an interview.
Affirma was established in July last year following a management buyout of Standard Chartered Bank’s private equity business and backed by Intermediate Capital Group’s Strategic Equity funds. The fund, armed with $700 million of dry powder after the spin-out, has deployed about $200 million since then, with investments in India, Southeast Asia and South Korea.
In February, Affirma launched its fifth fund for the South Korean market targeting mid-sized firms in the country. The target is to raise a total of $450-500 million and to meet its first close by the end of 2020 or early 2021.
“Korea continues to be a very big market for this business and that’s why we’re getting a very good response for our fundraising as well,” he said. Korea Development Bank and National Pension Services were LPs in the previous four funds.
Affirma is also planning an emerging Asia fund for investments in India, China and Southeast Asia as well as an Africa-Middle East fund. Although the target for these funds is still under review, Affirma will likely launch the fundraising exercise in 2021.
In a wide-ranging interview, Jaisingh talks about the impact of COVID-19 on the firm and its portfolio companies and the broader private equity landscape, exit environment, and outlook on the secondary PE market, among others.