Myanmar PE firm Anthem Asia invests over $1m in local agri-business

Anthem Asia's Josephine Price at the DEALSTREETASIA Asia PE-VC Summit 2016 in Singapore. Photo: DEALSTREETASIA

Myanmar-focused private equity firm Anthem Asia announced on Friday it invested over $1 million in an early-stage agri-business Shan Orchard Myanmar Ltd, the first investment from its $50-million Myanmar SME Venture Fund.

Based close to Heho Airport located near the popular Inle Lake at Southern Shan State in Myanmar, Shan Orchard is an agriculture services business focusing on growing Hass avocados and processing avocado oil.

It is led by seasoned agri-business entrepreneurs Nathan Naing Winn and Daniel Bennett, as well as local Myanmar female entrepreneur Thel Suu Thinzar Bo. The capital will be used for purchasing an avocado oil processing facility, support facilities, acquiring farmland and working capital.

“The avocado oil processing will be running by the end of the year with supplies coming from dozens of local farmers. In future, we will also source international grade avocados from our own plantations,” said Shan Orchard co-founder Nathan Naing Winn, who has experiences in logistics, operations and finance.

Shan Orchard is also leveraging its management expertise to add value with other higher-value crops: it is trialling higher-value rice types and plans to intercrop other high-value products with the avocado plant to maximise land use and improve seasonality.

“Shan Orchard offers a first-mover opportunity ina premium agri-product category where Myanmar has many natural advantages. The company’s strong management team that has targeted avocados based on their experience of working in the agriculture sector in Myanmar.

“The business is driven by rising global demand for avocados both as a healthy food and as a raw product in cosmetics,” said Anthem Asia managing director and co-founder Josephine Price.

It is understood that Anthem Asia is currently working towards the second close of the Myanmar SME Venture Fund, with a final close target of $50-million. The vehicle held its first close at $34.5 million last August, with commitments from institutional investors including International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Dutch Good Growth Fund, and UK state-owned CDC Group plc.

The country-focused vehicle will focus on providing growth and expansion capital to small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) in Myanmar with ticket sizes of up to $3 million. Anthem Asia is a women-led firm launched in 2013 by co-founders Price and Genevieve Heng to help scale sustainable local businesses.

Heng had told DealStreetAsia that the debut vehicle is not in a rush to cut its first check, as it is more crucial to find a company that fits the fund’s profile.

“We all want to deploy funds, but one must be careful and make sure you do it for the right reasons. I never put a number down. In the first year, most normal funds don’t do many deals – if you’re lucky, you do one or two. You want to make sure you have a healthy pipeline.

“Most deals get done between the second and third year because you get the time to build the relationships. We’re looking to close one, definitely, but you are not sure how long it would take. If you’re lucky, a deal takes about three to four months. You want to make sure you do your due diligence properly, or else you’ll only find out about the mess after you cut the check,” she shared.

According to its website, Anthem Asia has 10 portfolio companies including influencer management company Piyawasa, digital agency ERA Myanmar, property marketing and management platform Thahara, serviced office space provider Hintha Business Centres, marketing agency Blink, marketing communications firm Zagar Communications, mobile data collection platform Xavey.