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Private equity: Investing into a perfect storm

CLSA rebrands and beefs up its private equity operation.

Raising $1 billion of new capital to invest when you’re worried about global markets might sound odd, but CLSA’s private equity arm has done just that. Relaunched and rebranded as CLSA Capital Partners (CLSACP), it has just closed four new funds.

“Asia ex-China looks very good,” says Gary Coull, chairman and CEO of CLSACP as well as chairman of CLSA. “I’m more worried about global problems: I think we’re heading for a perfect [economic] storm.”

Despite the concerns, CLSA decided to beef up private equity as something of a hedge against its core research-driven broking business. “We took a decision four or five years ago that private equity offered us a good revenue diversification stream,” says Coull, “since it would avoid the conflicts inherent in long-only equities and investment banking.”

The performance of CLSA’s first two funds, Aria Investments Partners I and II, was sufficiently strong to allow the firm to go back to the market with some more highly tailored investment options. Unlike many other regional funds, CLSACP decided to launch new funds following investment themes rather than specific regional, country or sector lines. These are domestic demand, a bet that Asia’s baby boomers will increase their consumption, asset reflation, an opportunistic property fund focused principally on North Asia, a Japan recovery play focusing on growth capital and mid-market buyouts, and a pan-Asian leveraged buyout fund that will provide mezzanine finance to other firms’ deals.

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