Private equity’s expansion outside of North America has been brisk. The European markets were quick to catch on in the early 1990s, and more recently the Asian markets have stepped up their private equity investment pace.
To capitalize on the rising tide that is now gripping the region, Hamilton Lane has opened up a new Singapore-based subsidiary, Hamilton Lane Pte Ltd.
The investment consulting firm tapped Alain Vandenborre as a director in charge of spearheading the firm’s business development activities in Southeast Asia. Vandenborre comes to Hamilton Lane from Vivendi Universal, where he served as the executive director and CFO in the Asia-Pacific region. Additionally, Vandenborre currently serves as executive director of the Singapore Venture Capital Association and as co-chairman of the Asia Pacific Venture Capital Alliance.
The Singapore office will be Hamilton Lane’s third location, branching out from its existing headquarters in Philadelphia and a location in London. Besides Vandenborre, the firm plans to add up to five more people. Also on Hamilton Lane’s docket, the firm plans on opening a West Coast office in the U.S., although that move is not expected to occur for another six to 12 months.
Hamilton Lane CEO Mario Giannini says that the Singapore office has been something the firm has been looking at for some time.
“There’s been a trend toward globalization in private equity,” Giannini says. “There’s definitely a developing investment opportunity set, and we’ve seen growth in the amount of capital that’s moving into Asia.”
Indeed, last week, PE Week reported that Singapore – which has long been shadowed by its large communist neighbor, China, to the north – is trying to lure U.S. private equity firms overseas with promises of tax breaks and other financial incentives. Hwee Song Chua, deputy director of a division of Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) said in an interview with PE Week that the EDB plans to bring various funds-of-funds to Singapore on a road show to seek their participation.
Chua said EDB plans to bring FoF firms to Singapore soon and to make announcements before the end of the year, possibly to overlap with the annual AsiaVest Conference in Singapore in mid-October.
Singapore’s private equity industry is already well established. More than 150 venture firms have a presence in the country. Collectively, those firms manage more than $9 billion in funds invested in Singapore and throughout Asia, Chua says.
The increased attention Asia is receiving – at least from the private equity community – is reflected in the number of U.S. buyout shops that have stepped up their efforts there. Ripplewood Holdings, Newbridge Capital, W.L. Ross & Co., The Carlyle Group and Cerberus Capital Management are just a few of the U.S. firms to have established a strong presence in Asia.
M&A advisor Barrington Associates, meanwhile, is following the trend, as well, and has recently opened up an office in China.
“We’re seeing more and more interest from private equity groups to deploy their capital in Asia,” says Barrington Managing Director James Freedman. “Up until now it has been fairly difficult to invest in Asian companies, because of the difficult corporate securities laws. But there has been tremendous progress in the last year, and reforms in these laws have made the region more appealing. In the next five years we expect to see an enormous sea change in the amount of private equity going into Asia,” he says.
Giannini, meanwhile, also credits the Asian capital market’s growth for the rise in private equity. “There’s been some growth in the liquidity of the Asian capital base, and as that increases and the amount of capital available to institutions grows, investors start to look into other asset classes such as private equity.” -K.M./J.B.