Lex 2010-04-14

Capital is creeping back to private equity. Over 1,500 funds will be on the road this year, according to research firm Preqin, seeking almost $700bn. Many managers will be touting connections in China, reckoned to represent the best opportunity in the current climate among investors. And yet opportunities for the big global PE funds to import their big global strategies are, and probably always will be, limited.

There are two main reasons why. The first is that China has no shortage of capital. Balance sheet – the calling card of the Blackstones and the Bains – doesn’t come into it. PE deals tend to be small, and skewed towards pre-initial public offering growth capital. On Thomson Reuters numbers, China accounted for just under one-third of the $11.3bn in disclosed PE deals in Asia ex-Japan last year. But the average investment was just $13m, less than in Vietnam.

Second is the pervasive influence of economic planners. Fringe sectors such as new media, biotechnology or clean energy – classic seed capital fodder – are wide open for foreign investment. But when it comes to really critical nodes of the economy, the game is dominated by large industrial funds with political backgrounds. It is no accident that, as it has developed, the locus of the domestic PE industry has steadily shifted from technology-focused Shanghai to government-dominated Beijing.

Six months ago the State Council passed legislation allowing foreigners to raise renminbi funds. Seventeen global institutions have registered to do so, according to Z-Ben, a Shanghai-based consultancy. That in itself may broaden horizons, and will probably improve returns: a renminbi investment leading to an IPO on the mainland should command a higher multiple than a dollar deal exiting in Hong Kong or New York. Still, prospective investors in China-focused funds need to be realistic. The fortress is only half open.

英国《金融时报》 Lex专栏 2010-04-14


原因主要有两个。首先,中国并不缺资本。百仕通(Blackstone)和贝恩(Bain)等私人股本基金的强项——资产规模——在中国根本算不上什么。私人股本交易往往规模较小,而且集中在首次公开发行(IPO)前的成长型资本投资上。根据汤森路透(Thomson Reuters)的数据,去年亚洲(不含日本)经披露的私人股本投资额为113亿美元,中国在其中所占份额略低于三分之一——但每宗交易的平均投资额仅为1300万美元,还没有越南的高。