Private equity: Southern Cross takes challenge
Southern Cross Group is making waves in Latin American private equity, standing out because of its aggressive and sometimes contentious strategy – it only invests in companies in which it has unchallenged control of management – which is bringing it high returns.
It can also boast a record of doubling the profits of its portfolio companies. In less than a decade, the fund has moved more than $500 million into assets ranging from retail to energy and persuaded pension funds to invest in the projects. Southern Cross’s focus on Chile, Latin America’s most developed nation, also marks a change with the past. In the 1990s, foreign and local private equity funds raised $20 billion to invest in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina but many international investors fled the region after Argentina’s debt default and Brazil’s devaluation of the real.
Its latest strategy is proving groundbreaking: buying companies left behind by retreating multinationals wanting to focus on their core US and European markets. After almost a year of negotiations, in March Southern Cross bought two large Chilean water companies from the UK’s Thames Water for about $400 million including debt. Last month, Southern Cross began construction of a 120MW power plant in central Chile after buying the site from Canada’s Nova Gas International. Southern Cross, which owns energy and retail assets in Argentina, is now aiming to expand into Mexico and Brazil, where its HotelDo tourism company has a presence.