Asia PE-VC Summit 2021: 14 must-attend PE sessions to examine the Asia opportunity

Private equity capital waiting to be deployed in the SE Asian region is at its peak.

At least 25 SE Asia-focused funds are currently in the market looking to raise over $5.8 billion, and 26 APAC funds with SE Asia allocations are seeking $58.8 billion, according to DealStreetAsia DATA VANTAGE’s Private Equity in SE Asia Report released in February this year.

Meanwhile, Asia-focused PE funds raised $80.5 billion as of June this year, up 59% from the previous year, according to Preqin data.

As fresh capital seeks out opportunities, PE investors are seen recalibrating their strategies and diversifying their investment thesis after the global pandemic accelerated digital adoption across the board.

At the same time, the exit timeline, in the aftermath of the healthcare crisis, may have further stretched for risk capital investors in SE Asia.

From asset allocations to Asia, LP-GP dynamics, chasing digital economy winners, consumption theme, impact investing to navigating the exit path, our private equity tracks will look at top trends playing out in high-growth markets of Asia including India, China, and SE Asia.

Join these conversations with our top speakers representing firms such as Adams Street, Ares SSG, PAG, Quadria Capital, North Star Group at the Asia PE-VC Summit 2021 to get the big-picture view on the private equity asset class in Asia.

1. Keynote presentation: SE Asia in Spotlight: Of unicorns, mega exits and the big digital advantage

By Nick Nash, co-founder and managing partner, Asia Partners

A strong believer in the SE Asia growth story, former Sea Group president Nick Nash is the co-founder of Singapore-headquartered tech-focused PE firm Asia Partners, which closed its debut vehicle at $384 million earlier this year.

The Harvard graduate spent more than a decade at General Atlantic as principal and head of Southeast Asia between 2002 and 2014 before moving to Sea Group, where he led the largest-ever SE Asian internet IPO, a $989-million offering on the NYSE in 2017. He left Sea Group in December 2018 to launch Asia Partners that seeks to bridge the growth-stage funding gap by investing $20 million to $100 million into Southeast Asian tech startups.

Nash believes that Southeast Asia has the potential to create over $400 billion of new technology sector equity value over the next decade. Asia Partners is betting on that potential with its debut technology fund, which has attracted a strong investor appetite for fast-growing tech verticals such as e-commerce, payments, mobile apps, and so on. The pandemic-induced accelerated digital adoption has only added to the overall opportunities landscape.

Asia Partners predicts SE Asia will see the rise of over 20 billion-dollar value tech companies by 2029, with at least half of these companies pursuing IPOs over the next decade.

2. LP allocations and bias to Asia: What has changed?

Sunil Mishra, partner, primary investments, Adams Street Partners 

Hemal Mirani, managing director, HarbourVest Partners

As exit timelines for private equity portfolios in Asia stretch longer particularly in the post-COVID context, the region is fast turning into a play for patient capital and longer-tenure investments. In this panel, we will explore themes such as portfolio adjustments, valuation trends, rebalancing and weighing of short and long-term risks of exposure to the region, under-invested sectors and overhang of tech deals.

We feature Adams Street Partners’s Sunil Mishra who specialises in fund selection, due diligence, negotiations, and monitoring of Asian investments ex-China, specifically in India, Australia, Japan, Southeast Asia, and Korea. He sits on advisory boards of more than a dozen private equity firms within the Adams Street Partners portfolio. Adams Street manages $45 billion of assets across our primary, secondary, growth equity, credit, and co-investment strategies.Hemal Mirani rejoined HarbourVest’s senior management team in Asia in 2015 to focus on investments and investor relations across the Asia Pacific region. Boston-based HarbourVest Partners is bullish on Southeast Asia from the opportunity lens of consumer tech, software and healthcare sectors, aided by favourable macro drivers, demographics and urbanisation trends.  HarbourVest recently announced the opening of its office in Singapore, expanding its footprint to 11 locations worldwide. Besides Singapore, Mirani oversees the firm’s operations and strategy for Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokyo.

3. Canadian pension funds making a big shift towards S Asia

Prateek Maheshwari, managing director and Head of Asia, OMERS Infrastructure

Wai Leng Leong, managing director and regional head of Asia Pacific, CDPQ Global, CDPQ Singapore

Canada’s top pension funds CDPQ, CPPIB and OMERS — among the most active institutional investors in the alternative asset class — have been stepping up their presence and exposure in the region in both public and private markets and setting up platforms for investments.

Canada’s CDPQ, which set up its Singapore office back in 2014, typically allocates 13.6% of its investments towards markets such as SE Asia, China, India and LatAm nations. In SE Asia, CDPQ has primarily invested in Indonesian government bonds and infrastructure projects. Through its real estate arm Ivanhoe Cambridge, which backs LOGOS Group, CDPQ recently formed two JVs with CPPIB to develop logistics facilities in Jakarta. An active LP, CDPQ is also looking at co-investment opportunities and an increased presence in the technology vertical. The pension fund manager has over $50 billion assets in its PE portfolio.

Our featured speaker Wai Leng Leong is responsible for the regional management of CDPQ Global in Asia Pacific. She has over 30 years of experience in the finance and banking sectors, including 13 years in China, where she built a commercial banking business from the ground up. For OMERS, which has assets worth $109 billion under management, the Asia market is a strategic priority.

Prateek Maheshwari believes the energy transition theme is going to be very strong in Asia as it tries to decarbonise. OMERS manages a diversified portfolio of investments in public markets, private equity, infrastructure, and real estate. OMERS is looking to expand its portfolio of infrastructure assets in Asia. The investment manager is eyeing sectors such as telecom, renewable energy, and road. Maheshwari leads investment efforts in transport and renewable energy infrastructure. Prior to joining OMERS, Prateek was a Senior Principal with Global Infrastructure Partners for 12 years.

4. Impact investing turns mainstream: What’s changing and what are the implications?

Fernanda Lim, partner, LeapFrog Investments

Tan Shao Ming, managing director, ABC World Asia

Saima Rehman, investment officer, Private Equity & Funds, IFC

The private market for impact investing has grown as much as $2.1 trillion last year, according to IFC estimates. In 2019 alone, private capital firms raised more than $76 billion in funds with an impact mandate. Still more funds are to come: Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management is in the market to raise as much as $12.5 billion for its new impact investment fund.

Yet, according to IFC, only a quarter of the market is clearly measured for financial and development impact. As interest in investing for impact continues to grow, driven by evolving investor profiles and clear development needs, how is the industry set for sustainable growth? What are the implications of the influx in capital? What drives real returns in impact investments?

The panel brings together seasoned investors focused on impact in Asia, to discuss measurable impact investing. Joining us from IFC is Saima Rehman, who brings 17 years of investment experience across South Asia, and East Asia Pacific. Also on the panel is Fernanda Lima from LeapFrog Investments, which has raised more than $2 billion across four private equity funds from institutional investors, including from Singapore state investor Temasek.

The UK-headquartered private equity firm drives impact through its investments in high-growth financial services and healthcare companies in emerging markets. Its latest investments include leading a $54 million funding round in PasarPolis, the Indonesian insurtech company; and a $55 million round into India’s MedGenome, a genetic diagnostics company.

ABC World Asia’s Tan Shao Ming drives investments at the PE fund, which raised S$385 million in 2019 to target companies in China, Southeast Asia, and South Asia. The fund focuses on financial and digital inclusion; health and education; climate and water solutions; sustainable food and agriculture; and smart and liveable cities.

5. Fireside chat: Trendspotting & identifying the next big wave of digital economy winners

Patrick Walujo, co-founder, managing partner and member of the investment committee, Northstar Group

An early investor in Indonesian decacorn Gojek, Northstar Group is now training sights on the second wave of digital companies that are emerging in the healthtech, edtech, agritech and SaaS sectors. Northstar’s early bet Gojek merged with local e-commerce major Tokopedia, in a landmark deal, to create one of SE Asia’s biggest tech conglomerates.

Northstar will continue to back enterprises in Indonesia and Vietnam, two of SE Asia’s most attractive markets. But, have these markets delivered so far for private equity investors? Can Southeast Asia – with its lower labour costs, higher purchasing power and smartphone adoption – become Asia’s next major digital market?

Patrick Walujo will discuss the firm’s investment thesis and its focus on consumers, financial services and the digital economy, sectors that are set to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic. Northstar is on track for an $800-million final close of its fifth fund by the end of the year.

6. Fireside chat: Consolidation & turnaround trends to boost demand for alternative capital in Asia

Edwin Wong, managing partner and CEO, Ares SSG

With banks reducing their exposure, alternative assets managers are best placed to fill the financing gap across Asia. Buoyed by growing demand for alternative capital in the wake of the pandemic, special situations-focused Ares SSG is looking at investment opportunities in real estate and financial services sectors in two of Asia’s largest economies – India and China.

In March 2021, the Hong Kong-based fund sealed the deal to acquire Indian debt-ridden real estate financier Altico Capital. Ares SSG, which has more than $7 billion in AUM, makes credit, private equity, and special situations investments on behalf of its institutional clients.

The firm is on track to hit the final close of its latest Asia-Pacific focussed secured lending fund at $1.5 billion. In 2019, it had closed its fifth flagship fund SSG Capital Partners V at $1.9 billion and raised an additional $825 million for a sidecar fund.

7. Fireside chat: The “next big what” opportunities unfolding in the life sciences space

Dr Amit Verma, managing partner, Quadria Capital

Co-founder Amit Varma, a practicing doctor, believes that the healthcare market in India and Southeast Asia market combined will be bigger and grow faster than US-EU put together by 2025.

When it comes to the economics of healthcare, Varma believes the platform approach — combining smaller clinics and hospitals under one group — is the way forward. The session will discuss private equity’s role in bridging the gap between the challenges investors face, manpower, technology, and supply chains, and patient requirements – affordability, accessibility, and quality.

Quadria, the only PE firm in the healthcare space that looks at opportunities across South Asia had closed its second fund at $595 million last year, exceeding its target of $400 million. From India to Indonesia and Vietnam, the firm is scouting for new investment opportunities and targeting healthcare services; life sciences, pharma and medical devices; distribution or retail platforms; and health technology. It is also on track to close its second VC fund at $150 million soon.

8. Fireside chat: The art and science of making PE investments during crisis times

Weijian Shan, group chairman and chief executive officer, PAG

Despite regulatory crackdown on several fast-growing sectors and the continued Sino-US trade tensions, China continues to see growth in investments, private equity fundraising and expansion in deal sizes as global institutional investors bat for long-term macro factors.

China is projected to contribute up to 25% of global GDP growth from now until 2024. Will LPs accordingly allocate capital to funds targeting the Middle Kingdom? Will we continue to see PE fundraising in China largely concentrated on the biggest funds? Shan will share his insights on how the PE industry views the latest developments in the technology space in China, particularly on the regulatory front, as well as his reading of the US-China relations under the Biden administration so far, in addition to other geopolitical developments.

The author of Money Games and Out of the Gobi, Shan had established PAG’s PE branch in 2010 after his previous stints leading deals at TPG and Newbridge Capital. The team has raised four vehicles to date, including PAG Growth Fund I and three buyout-focused pan-Asia funds: PAG Asia I (closed in 2012 at $2.5 billion), PAG Asia II (closed in 2016 at $3.6 billion), and PAG Asia III (closed in 2018 at $6 billion). PAG is currently in the market to raise its fifth direct lending fund for the region.

9. Fireside chat: New digital scripts India will play to in the post-pandemic world and beyond

Haresh Chawla, partner, True North

The pandemic has clearly altered and accelerated India’s digital transformation journey. India has already produced 16 unicorns in the first six months of 2021 compared to 10 in the whole of 2020.

Haresh Chawla, rated among the country’s most influential commentators in identifying the big shifts in India’s economy, society, and its future, will explain why the country’s digital landscape will never be the same again in the post-pandemic world.

At True North, Chawla focuses on investments in the food and consumer sectors where he identifies and helps transform mid-sized businesses. True North closed its sixth fund, from which it is currently investing, in 2019, raising about $600 million. It has earmarked about $200-250 million from its sixth fund for deals in the consumer space, particularly niche brands that are riding the digitalisation wave spurred by the pandemic-induced changes in consumer behaviour.

10. Fireside chat: Applying global lessons to Asian tech investments

Cyrus Driver, managing director, Partners Group

Asia is seeing intense competition for technology assets, and global private equity major Partners Group is the latest to join this crowded space. Can the Swiss alternative assets manager, which plans to allocate 15-20% of its global tech investments to opportunities in Asia to start with, stand out?

Driver, now managing director of Partners’ Private Equity Technology business unit, will dwell on the firm’s efforts at making pure technology investments as part of its strategy after the global pandemic has thrown up a plethora of opportunities with enormous growth potential.

While Partners Group has invested in software services providers in the US and Europe, its exposure to similar opportunities in Asia remains limited. Can the firm bring its learnings from non-tech businesses that it typically invests into sectors such as SaaS, software, and other segments within the internet ecosystem?

Partners Group has recently reorganised its business units based on sectors as opposed to geography previously.

11. Fireside chat: The post-Covid exit landscape and new fundraising order in SE Asia

Nicholas Bloy, co-managing partner, Navis Capital Partners

Private equity deal-making in SE Asia appears to be bouncing back in 2021 compared to last year’s lacklustre exit record as well fewer buyout transactions. The region is also seeing an increase in the number of global PE majors looking at SE Asia even as limited partners are setting up regional offices to boost their direct investments.

How are LPs and GPs approaching digital fundraising and virtual underwriting? Will the increased dry powder lead to record deals in the rest of 2021 and next year? What will the new normal be for SE Asia and which markets and sectors will see heightened activity? Will remote work allow SEA-focused PE firms to have boots on the ground in more countries here, enabling greater access to deal flow?

Bloy, who is responsible for fundraising at Navis, will share his perspectives on the overall PE investment landscape in the current context. Malaysia-headquartered Navis Capital manages approximately $5 billion in public and private equity capital and focuses on investments primarily in and around Asia.

Navis recently announced the final close of two of its funds — Navis Asia Fund VIII and Navis Asia Green Loop Fund — at $900 million and $450 million, respectively. Navis Capital has also been actively exploring exits from its investments and has also sealed several divestments in recent months.

12. Fireside chat: Strong capital structures, liquidity, and credit access key to navigate the crisis

Atul Kapur, co-founder and chief investment officer, Everstone Group

Having seen the rise of private equity in India over the last decade, Atul Kapur will take us through the onward journey of this asset class in the post-pandemic world. How will Everstone — best known for its platform approach, value-add strategy and buyouts approach — navigate its operations across PE, VC, real estate and infrastructure following the changes brought about by the pandemic?

This chat will also seek to explore the underlying strong fundamentals that led to a 38% rise in PE investments in India to a record $62.2 billion in the COVID year of 2020 even though the exit record continued to be lacklustre.

The Everstone co-founder will also share insights on how locally-grown PE firms can compete and differentiate themselves from the new class of investors like pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, specialised secondary funds, global buyout funds, and strategics.

The Singapore-based PE firm is seeking to raise as much as $950 million for its fourth fund that will back companies in India and Southeast Asia. Everstone manages more than $5 billion across private equity, real estate, green infrastructure, and venture capital funds. Everstone has also launched a dedicated credit fund.

13. Fireside chat: Private equity and the next generation of consumers

Chinta Bhagat, managing partner, Asia, L Catterton

Even before the pandemic, the consumer sector was undergoing key shifts driven by changes in demographics and the digitalisation of business models. The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing restrictions have accelerated existing trends, and pushed businesses to take stock, and rethink operating models and value propositions.

What matters most to the consumers of tomorrow? How are private equity firms approaching the evolving market landscape? Where are the opportunities that private capital can tap into?

As an experienced investor in the consumer sector, with more than three decades of experience in building enduring brands, L Catterton is at the heart of these questions. The firm has $28 billion in equity capital under management and investment professionals globally. Bhagat, who leads the team in Asia out of Singapore, will share his perspectives on creating value amid the changing consumer landscape.

14. How will Vietnam rewrite its recovery script amid pandemic drag?

Conrad Tsang – founder & chairman, Strategic Year Holdings Limited

Quang Pham – director, Crescent Group Capital Management

Richard Trieu Pham – president & Group CFO, TIKI Corporation

In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic became a global healthcare crisis, Vietnam was among the most resilient nations to bounce back to resume business activity. While other ASEAN economies had forecasted negative growth in 2020, Vietnam’s GDP managed to grow at nearly 3%. Since then, investors have been bullish about Vietnam, backing investments in the country  despite difficulties in undertaking deal due diligence. Cut to 2021, with low vaccination rates and an increase in the number of cases, local businesses have been witnessing a prolonged lockdown situation.

In the changed scenario, will Vietnam prove to be equally attractive as a destination for foreign investments by global MNCs?   What will be the somewhat delayed impact of the pandemic on Vietnam’s economy, particularly the startup space? Is Vietnam as a single-country market an attractive bet for risk capital investors backing tech startups?

Our panelists will share their perspectives on the opportunities and challenges in the emerging SE Asian market.

We have Conrad Tsang, chairman & co-founder, Strategic Year Holdings Limited, a Hong Kong-based private equity firm that has increased its investment activity in Southeast Asia. Strategic Year has invested in Vietnamese education startup TEKY Holdings. The firm is spending more resources and time in markets like Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines, and some cross-border opportunities.

Meanwhile, Quang Pham oversees Vietnam as well as other SE Asia markets for Crescent Group Capital Management (Crescent Point). In Vietnam, Crescent Point had invested $36.2 million in integrated children’s lifestyle platform N Kid Corporation in 2019. Pham was earlier the co-founder and a senior investment manager at VI (Vietnam Investments) Group, one of the largest Vietnam-focused private equity firms.

Our third panelist is Richard Trieu Pham, group president & CFO at TIKI Corporation – Vietnam’s largest homegrown e-commerce platform. TIKI is seeking $200 million in its ongoing Series E funding that has raised nearly $100 million from both strategic and financial investors including insurer AIA, Taiwan Mobile, AppWorks, CE Fintech Capital and Nextrans. The online marketplace has recently set up Tiki Global Pte Ltd, a Singapore holding company, aiming for an overseas listing.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.