Private Equity in SEA

Can anyone shed light on the PE scene in Southeast Asia (Singapore)?

Know a bunch of MFs have a presence there but there's not much intel on WSO. I'd love to get a sense for

  1. The top PE players in the space,

  2. What it takes to move from a US fund to a Singapore-based fund

  3. Why the region doesn't get as much attention (not a strong exit strategy for portcos, etc)

  4. Longer term thoughts on investing in the region

Any other insights would be appreciated!


Based on the most helpful WSO content, the Private Equity (PE) scene in Southeast Asia, particularly in Singapore, is characterized by a mix of local and international players. Here are some insights into the PE landscape in Singapore:

  1. Top PE Players in the Space:

    • While specific names of top PE firms in Singapore are not detailed in the provided context, it is mentioned that there are smaller regional funds and country-specific funds that leverage strong local networks and expertise. Large international firms like Blackstone have a presence, conducting Tactical Opportunities (TacOps) and limited direct PE activities, primarily run out of Hong Kong for Southeast Asian deals.
  2. Moving from a US Fund to a Singapore-based Fund:

    • The transition from a US fund to a Singapore-based fund involves demonstrating a clear understanding of and interest in the Southeast Asian market. Local language skills can be advantageous, although not always mandatory. The hiring trend in Singapore leans towards recruiting locals or Southeast Asians, partly due to government policies promoting local employment and partly to ensure effective deal sourcing within the region.
  3. Regional Attention and Challenges:

    • Southeast Asia might not receive as much attention as other major markets due to several factors. One significant challenge is the exit strategy for portfolio companies, which might not be as robust compared to more developed markets. This could be due to a variety of economic and market-specific factors that affect the liquidity and valuation of exits.
  4. Longer Term Thoughts on Investing in the Region:

    • Investing in Southeast Asia presents opportunities, especially in consumer-driven markets and sectors like Consumer Tech and Education (including EdTech). The region has shown strong returns and exits, particularly in comparison to other areas like India. However, the investment landscape is likely more skewed towards growth investments rather than buyouts, which influences the long-term investment strategy.

These insights should provide a foundational understanding of the PE environment in Singapore and Southeast Asia. The region offers unique opportunities and challenges, and success often depends on deep local market knowledge and the right strategic approach.

Sources: Q&A: Megafund Asia Private Equity, Non US/Europe IB/PE Overview, Non US/Europe IB/PE Overview, Q&A: Mega Fund Associate - Asia Pacific Edition, Private Equity in India

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Most Helpful

1. Most of the megafunds have a presence in Singapore. CVC, Baring EQT (now just EQT), TPG, Warburg, Blackstone, KKR, all have teams in Singapore. LPs typically see CVC as having the strongest team in SEA. If you move down in fund size, I'll categorize it as the following (non-exhaustive):

Mid-cap: Navis, Creador (minority growth), Growtheum (minority growth), Quadria (healthcare), Dymon Asia PE, Tower Capital Asia

Small to mid-cap: KV Asia, Southern Capital, Novo Tellus, and many other small funds, some of which operate deal-by-deal

2. It used to be that US experience was highly valued. Nowadays, language skills are at a premium as it is important to do deals in a region with so many different languages spoken. Most SEA-focused funds staff teams on a country-by-country basis if they have some scale (e.g. Dymon, Navis, Creador)

3. There's historically been difficulties across sourcing, execution and exit in SEA. Sourcing -- lots of larger companies are still family-controlled, and therefore very difficult to navigate family politics + become a trusted party to do deals. Also deals can be surprisingly expensive. In 2021, a minority stake in a Malaysian private healthcare group was bought at an implied valuation of >30x EV/EBITDA... Strong performing businesses tend to be surprisingly expensive in SEA. Execution -- many PE firms have had trouble scaling their portfolio companies regionally due to the vastly different legal frameworks, consumer types, cultures, and so on. Exit -- strategics are not super acquisitive, capital markets are not very liquid, so it can be challenging to find buyers at your desired valuation. 

4. The hope is that PE in SEA will start developing and becoming a much deeper market like China eventually (though China's buyout market is still some ways behind the west). Doing PE deals in SEA is generally a challenge... you need to be very well-connected to raise money and do deals. The best deals here are always off-market


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