Sure, U.S.-based pension plans and other big domestic LPs remain a vital source of capital for buyout funds. But as more domestic institutions consolidate their private equity portfolios to reduce the number of relationships they have to manage, GPs need to start thinking internationally to find new backers.
U.S. state pension funds – the bread and butter for U.S. private equity firms – are committing more money to fewer GPs, focusing their efforts on so-called “core” relationships. This strategy has created a stratified system under which some firms raise funds in a matter of weeks, with more demand than they can handle, while others spend two years trying to get close to their targets.
The fundraising dynamic means more GPs will be on planes flying to remote corners of the globe to present their investment presentations.
“If you’re a middle-market guy looking for money, these are the plane rides you’ll need to take as fundraising becomes more international,” said John Haggerty, managing principal and director of private markets for Meketa Investment Group, an LP advisor.
But gaining interest from the biggest pools of capital is a challenge for middle-market GPs. “As larger investors, sovereign wealth funds tend to target larger GPs,” said Kelly DePonte of Probitas Partners, a San Francisco-based placement firm.
For example, the Government of Singapore Investment Corp is one of the few large sovereign wealth funds with offices in the U.S., but GIC rarely delves into buyout funds under $1 billion, DePonte said. He could only think of one example: a 2006 stake in the second buyout fund from Audax Group.
“For many of the largest sovereign wealth funds, the trend over the next 10 years is to move away from funds of any type toward separate accounts, co-investment and direct investments,” DePonte said.
Even if a big overseas player is interested in private equity, a don’t-call-us-we’ll-call-you attitude may often chill any overtures by a GP.
“At this point, we are not looking for more GPs to contact us,” one executive at a major European pension fund said in an email.
And yet sovereign wealth funds that draw billions from oil revenue need to diversify, an effort whose importance is reinforced by the recent plunge in petroleum prices. And with aging populations in many developed countries, the pressure is on to generate stronger returns for portfolios. Choosing the right private equity managers can certainly move a portfolio closer to that goal.
Anecdotal evidence of a macro trend behind private equity investing for funds of all stripes – even middle-market funds — appears to be building. Even if the biggest overseas LPs prefer to do so via separate accounts, co-investments and direct investments, their presence in the U.S. private equity industry will be felt in the future. And they tend to write very big checks.
So, who should you hit up on your next fundraising trip? As always, it depends.
Data on specific commitments by these international giants remains elusive. Several overseas pension funds and sovereign wealth funds did not respond to emails or phone calls from Buyouts seeking information on their private equity investments. We compiled the following list from interviews with placement agents, advisors and limited partners.
While this list is not definitive, it is a great place to start.
Source: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
Major overseas LPs you need to know
The following list was compiled by Buyouts through reporting, LP websites, market sources and media reports. Names are listed alphabetically.
Abu Dhabi Investment Authority
Total AUM: $770 billion (estimate)
PE AUM: $50 billion (estimate)
PE allocation: 6 percent (estimate)
Key personnel: Hareb Al Darmaki, executive director, Hamed Al Dhaheri, deputy director, Ahmed Ghubash, head of European fund investments, Craig Nickels, head of U.S. fund investments.
Summary: One of the largest private equity investors in the world, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) began investing in the asset class in 1989 to diversify its portfolio. “We are stumbling into the middle market in the U.S.,” Craig Nickels, head of U.S. fund investments for ADIA, told Buyouts late last year, but he didn’t provide specifics.
Private equity is one of seven departments grouped under ADIA’s investment departments, along with real estate & infrastructure, internal equities, external equities, alternative investments, fixed income and treasury, and indexed funds.
Looking ahead, Moody’s said the drop in oil prices may slow Abu Dhabi’s growth, but the country’s diversified assets in ADIA will ease the blow. Plus, the country has low oil extraction costs.
An ADIA spokesman referred questions to the fund’s website and said it doesn’t disclose specifics about AUM.
ADIA’s 2013 annual report said its private equity department had an active year reviewing a wide range of investment opportunities across primary, secondary and co-investments. ADIA said it hired mid-level professionals in private equity, particularly in its secondary and principal investment teams. It planned to continue expansion, selectively, in 2014. In May, peHub.com reported Andrew Kripke, a former executive at Caspian Private Equity, has joined the ADIA as a portfolio manager in the U.S. fund investments business, an ADIA representative confirmed. ADIA also worked with Cogent Partners to sell stakes in the secondary market.
ADIA reportedly sold its interest in Carlyle Europe Partners III, part of 40 LP stakes from a single sovereign wealth fund with a total value of $2.4 billion purchased by Ardian, in late 2014.
Total AUM: $448.3 billion
PE AUM: n/a
PE allocation: n/a
Key personnel: Iain Leigh, global head of private equity, Greg Jania, head of private equity fund investments.
Summary: APG, a big Dutch pension fund administrator, once got its exposure to private equity through fund of funds AlpInvest Partners. However, the pension, along with fellow Dutch pension administrator PGGM, began selling its ownership stake in AlpInvest to The Carlyle Group in 2011.
While continuing an LP relationship with AlpInvest, APG has been building its own private equity operations since 2013. APG doesn’t release much information about its program, though the hiring of Greg Jania in 2013 could be indicative of an appetite for the U.S. middle market. Prior to APG, Jania worked at fund of funds WP Global Partners, which focuses on the middle market.
ATP Private Equity Partners (Denmark)
Total AUM: $101.9 billion
PE AUM: $7.9 billion
PE allocation: n/a
Key personnel: Torben Vangstrup, managing partner.
Summary: ATP Private Equity Partners was formed in 2001 to build private equity exposure for Danish pension administrator ATP. The fund of funds, which counts ATP as one of its major LPs, has raised six investment vehicles.
ATP PEP’s team of 16 professionals is spread between Copenhagen and New York. The firm targets funds in Europe, North America and select emerging markets. ATP PEP closed its fifth fund of funds on $905.6 million in 2014.
Some of the managers that ATP PEP has backed over the years include Lindsay Goldberg, Pfingsten Partners, Brazos Private Equity Partners and Wynnchurch Capital Partners.
Canada Pension Plan Investment Board
Total AUM: $184 billion
PE AUM: $33.6 billion ($43.5 billion including infrastructure)
PE allocation: n/a
Key personnel: Mark Jenkins, senior managing director & global head of private investments.
Summary: An active deal-maker in the private equity space and the largest pension fund in Canada, CPPIB has been known for aggressively moving into direct investments in companies as well as assets trapped in underperforming funds (aka zombie funds).
But CPPIB also continues to invest in private equity funds. In its most recent move along these lines, it pledged about $300 million to fund-of-funds manager Northleaf Capital Partners to target small and mid-market buyout and growth equity funds seeking to raise about $1 billion or less in capital commitments. In 2014, CPPIB also committed $119 million to J.W. Childs Equity Partners IV for leveraged buyouts and recapitalization of middle-market growth companies. (A full list of its fund relationships can be found on its website.)
CPPIB was expected to invest about $5 billion in private equity in 2014, though it’s not clear if it hit that mark.
China Investment Corp
Total AUM: $653 billion
PE AUM: n/a
PE allocation: 28 percent of CIC’s capital pool falls within the category of long-term investments, which includes private equity funds, direct investments, commodities, real estate and infrastructure.
Key personnel: Ding Xuedong, chairman and CEO, Li Keping, vice chairman, and Linbo He, managing director and head of private equity investment.
Summary: Founded with $200 billion in 2007 as a wholly state-owned company to diversify China’s foreign exchange holdings, China Investment Corp (CIC) reported a net income ratio of 9.3 percent and a net annualized return of 5.7 percent, according to its 2013 annual report (the most recent report available). In March, 2013, Ding Xuedong took over as CEO, replacing Lou Jiwei, who served at the post from 2007-2013.
Among its specific fund investments, CIC committed $350 million to Carlyle’s sixth flagship fund in 2013, Buyouts reported.
CIC initially made big commitments to private equity in the mid-2000s, with stakes in funds from Apax Partners and the Blackstone Group, and even buying ownership stakes in some GP management companies. But it backed away from mega-funds in the wake of the global financial crisis, and it now selectively picks large managers for investments.
In a sign that CIC remains in the mix in international private equity circles, Linbo He, managing director and head of private equity investment, appeared at the Asian Venture Capital Journal Forum 2014 conference in Hong Kong in November. His prior positions at CIC included head of fixed income and absolute return, public market investments, and asset allocation and strategic research.
Future Fund (Australia)
Total AUM: $95 billion
PE AUM: n/a
PE allocation: n/a
Key Personnel: David George, head of debt and alternatives, Steve Byrom, head of private equity.
Summary: Australia’s sovereign wealth fund invests in middle-market U.S. buyouts. RCP Advisors, the Chicago-based private equity investment management firm, assists Future Fund in covering North American lower middle-market buyouts for funds under $1.5 billion. Future Fund makes commitments directly into bigger funds, without going through RCP. Since signing on with about four years ago, RCP Advisors has helped place hundreds of millions of dollars for Future Fund, according to a source.
RCP declined to comment.
Government of Singapore Investment Corp
AUM: $320 billion
PE AUM: $30 billion (est.)
PE allocation: 9 percent as of March 31, 2014; target range is 11 percent to 15 percent.
Key personnel: Lim Siong Guan, group president, Lim Chow Kiat, group chief investment officer, Lim Kee Chong, deputy group chief investment officer, Tay Lim Hock, president, GIC special investments.
Summary: Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC) began moving into private equity in 1982. Nowadays, it’s one of the largest and most established private equity LPs in the world, as an investor in buyouts, venture capital and special situations including mezzanine debt, distressed debt and secondary fund stakes.
Roughly one-third of GIC’s private equity investments go toward large buyouts, followed by middle-market buyouts and growth equity.
The sovereign wealth fund has stepped up its efforts as a direct investor as well, having completed deals alongside The Carlyle Group and the Blackstone Group, as well as other limited partners, such as Temasek Holdings. GIC has teamed with these and other firms on investments in Google, Facebook, Dell and Hilton Hotels.
Hong Kong Monetary Authority
AUM: $325 billion
Private equity AUM: $3.3 bln (est.)
PE allocation: n/a
Key personnel: Norman T.L. Chan, chief executive, Kim Chong, chief representative in the New York office, and Deputy Chief Executives Arthur Yuen, Peter Pang and Eddie Yue.
Summary: The Hong Kong Monetary Authority traces its roots to 1993 with the merger of the office of the Exchange Fund and the office of the commissioner of banking for Hong Kong.
As Hong Kong’s central banking institution, the HKMA is charged with maintaining currency stability and the banking system and managing the Exchange Fund.
In 2013, HKMA said it visited with asset managers in major financial centers through small groups and one-on-one meetings. The outreach meetings were held with private banking institutions, pension funds, mutual funds and private equity firms, the HKMA said.
Korea Investment Corp
AUM: $72 billion
PE AUM: $2.6 billion
PE allocation: 3.7 percent
Key personnel: Sooyong Jung leads the fund’s 13-person private equity team
Summary: The Korea Investment Corp manages assets for the South Korean government, Bank of Korea and other public funds. The sovereign wealth fund started investing in private equity in 2009, with Sooyong Jung now leading its private equity effort.
The portfolio, which has delivered a 6.37 percent annualized return since inception, bridges a number of strategies, including buyouts, mezzanine and co-investments. Centerbridge Partners, Clayton Dubilier & Rice and Partners Group are among the Korea Investment Corp.’s general partners.
In addition to its headquarters in Seoul, the Korea Investment Corporation also maintains offices in New York City and London.
Kuwait Investment Authority
Total AUM: $300 billion (est.)
PE AUM: $30 billion (est.)
PE allocation: 10 percent (est.)
Key personnel: Farooq A. Bastaki, executive director, alternative investment sector.
Summary: The Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) ranks as the oldest sovereign wealth fund in the world, with its roots tracing back to 1953. Farouq Bastaki is executive director of alternative investments, overseeing those in charge of private equity, real estate and hedge fund investments. KIA has said its private equity return objective is an annual rate of return in excess of 500 basis points over the 10 year rolling S&P 1200 Global Index.
Kuwait Investment Authority is among the clients added to the roster of separate account specialist StepStone Group LP since 2013.
In 2012, Kuwait Investment Authority teamed up with BlackRock Inc and other investors to buy 62 percent of Malaysia’s IHH Healthcare’s initial public offering, according to Reuters.
National Pension Service (South Korea)
Total AUM: $425 billion
PE AUM: $12 billion (est.)
PE allocation: 2.8 percent (est.)
Key personnel: Choi Kwang, CEO, Wan-Sun Hong, CIO, and Young-Mok Yoon and Young-Sig Yang, leaders of alternatives program.
Summary: South Korea’s National Pension Service provides retirement services to Korean nationals. The pension system’s alternatives portfolio includes its investments in infrastructure and real estate as well private equity. Its private equity allocation has been estimated at 2.8 percent, according to a market source. As of November 2014, the alternatives portfolio delivered a 6.2 percent return.
The pension’s private equity portfolio includes commitments with many of the industry’s most prominent firms, including the Blackstone Group, Cerberus Capital Partners, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and The Carlyle Group. National Pension Service also invests in Korean private equity firms, such as EQ Partners.
In August, Asia Asset Management reported that National Pension Service would invest $386 million into a private equity fund managed by Hamilton Lane.
Total AUM: $178 billion
PE AUM: n/a
PE allocation: n/a
Key personnel: Ho Ching, executive director and CEO, Chia Song Hwee, head of its investment group.
Summary: Temasek’s annual report does not disclose its allocation to private equity, but it has been an active investor in the asset class of late. Last April, it launched a co-investment vehicle called Astrea II that has holdings in 36 private equity funds. Temasek provided 38 percent of the vehicle’s funding. Six other entities, including global secondaries player Ardian, also invested in the fund.
Astrea II “was well received by institutional co-investors, and serves as a test bed to eventually offer similar opportunities to retail investors in the medium term,” Temasek Chairman Lim Boon Heng said in a statement.
In addition to its office in Singapore, Temasek has offices in North America, Europe, Southeast Asia and Latin America.
Note: All currency has been converted to U.S. dollar
Source: REUTERS/Lise Aaserud
Two to watch: Giant Japan, Norway funds may be moving toward private equity
The Government Pension Investment Fund of Japan counts $1.08 trillion in assets under management. Private equity pros have been talking about the fund for years as a potential investor in alternatives, but it’s been slow going.
However, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing for the fund to take a closer look at a more aggressive investment mix.
In late 2014, the world’s largest pension fund increased its allocation target for equities and reduced its bond allocation.
Hiromichi Mizuno, a former partner at Coller Capital, became the fund’s first chief investment officer in January. His background in private equity may signal an entry into the asset class, but specific information on any move in this direction remains sketchy.
Meanwhile, Takahiro Mitani will step down in March as head of the pension fund after a five-year term. He formerly worked at the Bank of Japan.
Another big player with little exposure to private equity is the $729 billionGovernment Pension Fund of Norway. In 2013, Norway said it was mulling private equity investments, but little information is now available about any specific moves since then. – By Steve Gelsi