Hillhouse Capital: The alarming growth of Chinese private equity
Euromoney's feature on Hillhouse Capital lifts the lid on a style of investment that we all need to understand more clearly.
Hillhouse is the figurehead of homegrown Chinese private equity, although as an institution it is somewhat unusual and owes at least as much to the patient techniques of the Yale Investments Office as it does to mainland entrepreneurial zest.
Hillhouse, under CEO Lei Zhang, is the name everyone’s talking about in Hong Kong and Beijing: its $10.6 billion fundraising, which closed in September, was Asia’s largest-ever private equity capital raise and the deals it is involved in are some of the most interesting and transformational in the region.
The underlying trend is not just noteworthy but also a little alarming. According to the Asset Management Association of China (Amac), there were 66,400 private funds in China at the end of 2017, with Rmb11.1 trillion ($1.6 trillion) under management. Local governments have begun to create special zones for private funds; one, a town called Yuhuang Shannan in the tech-savvy city of Hangzhou, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Greenwich, Connecticut, where many US hedge funds reside. Yuhuang Shannan had 2,758 firms managing Rmb1.12 trillion as of July 2018, according to CNBC.
Why alarming? Expansion at a pace like that – about eightfold from 2014 to 2018 – is never entirely healthy.