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Hillhouse Capital’s box of tricks

It is worth over $50 billion and its deals are among the most important and influential in Asia, it is at the vanguard of Chinese private equity and yet it talks to nobody, but market participants in Asia and beyond need to understand it. What goes on inside Hillhouse?


Illustration: Kevin February

When Hillhouse Capital closed a new private fund at $10.6 billion in October, achieving Asia’s biggest-ever private equity capital raising, it marked another step in the ascent of the region’s most talked-about investment manager. 

Home-grown Chinese private equity is one of the great trends of the day: Hopu, CDH, Ping An Voyager and others all represent part of the story, but Hillhouse is the one that has made the most waves.

It has done so quietly, however. Chief executive Lei Zhang, who founded the firm in 2005 with $20 million of seeding from Yale University’s endowment fund, gave some personal profile interviews peppered with Taoist aphorisms in 2014, and speaks at occasional Yale alumni dinners, but otherwise its executives have not granted on-the-record interviews for years. 

But the market needs to understand Hillhouse. Its several hundred staff (“several hundred” is as precise as the firm is prepared to be) in Hong Kong and Beijing manage at least $50 billion (also as precise as the firm is prepared to be); and the way they are putting that money to work is not only interesting but influential

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