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.

Lex专栏:跨国私人股本在中国机会不大
英国《金融时报》 Lex专栏 2010-04-14

资本正悄悄向私人股本回流。根据研究公司Preqin的数据,今年准备筹资的私人股本基金有1500多只,筹资总额近7000亿美元。许多基金公司会把自己在中国的关系当作卖点——在当前的这种投资氛围下,中国被认为代表着最佳投资机会。但大型跨国私人股本基金在中国部署其宏伟全球战略的机会却不大,而且很可能永远如此。

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。

其次是经济规划部门无处不在的影响力。新媒体、生物技术或清洁能源等边缘行业(种子资本的典型投资对象)向外国投资完全开放。但当涉及到经济中真正的支柱领域时,游戏就由具有政治背景的大型产业基金所主导。随着中国国内私人股本行业的不断发展,该行业的基地已经逐步从技术为重心的上海转移到以政府力量为主导的北京,这绝非偶然。

六个月前,中国国务院通过了允许外资机构筹建人民币基金的法规。根据上海咨询公司咨奔商务咨询(Z-Ben)的数据,已有17家跨国机构为此进行了注册。从本质上说,筹建人民币基金可拓展跨国私人股本的运作空间,而且很可能会让它们获得更高的回报:相较以在香港或纽约上市为退出手段的美元交易,以在中国内地上市为退出手段的人民币投资应能获得更高的发行市盈率。尽管如此,以中国为投资重点的私人股本基金的潜在投资者仍需现实一些。毕竟堡垒的大门只敞开了一半。

Advertisements