In last month’s newsletter, I mentioned that I would be speaking at a conference with a bunch of LPs on the topic of “Global Markets for Buyouts and VC”. I closed saying, “Here’s hoping for an interactive, no-holds-barred session.”
Suffice it to say that my hopes materialized. While discussing the performance of EM PE, one LP said:
The issue with emerging markets is these funds have often been growth equity with minority stakes. The teams have been heavy on investment bankers who don’t know how to do deals. In emerging markets, private equity is the dumb money.
Another discussion revolved around whether EM PE is in a cyclical downturn or a structural one. LPs’ commitments are generally pro-cyclical and many herd into markets / strategies at the same time, with predictable results. If so, then—ceteris paribus—the trickle of capital flowing to EMs (apart from mega-cap Asia … more on that below) may well signal a cyclical bottoming. As one conference delegate argued, now would present an optimal time to adopt a contrarian strategy and lean into EM PE.
Two brief rejoinders: First, this is not what LPs are saying they’ll do:
Second, this just isn’t how private markets work. Even if you wanted to do so, you can’t buy the index. You have to choose a manager.
Industry cycles and macro need to be disentangled. With that in mind, my view is that the quality of the managers in the market at a given time drives flows more than macro. The nuance is that fundraising is a bit of a coincident indicator: the managers with whom LPs wish to invest frequently come to market (a) at the same time; and, (b) when investor sentiment toward the jurisdiction in question is hot.
Alas, I’m still in the camp of this being a structural downturn. A few reasons I’ve pondered this week include:
- “Dumb Money”!
- David Swensen’s recent remark that “the breadth of emerging markets that we were interested in 20 years ago has narrowed dramatically.”
- DFIs, which historically have supported the development of the industry, are increasingly committing to later, larger funds.
- The ongoing emergence of local, non-PE investors that don’t face the same return hurdles / horizons creates greater competition for quality deals.
- Tech is disrupting everything; in markets with fewer, ephemeral exit channels, this is a big problem.
More importantly, Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. One of the great bits of having a toddler is that I’m reminded daily that I have a blessed life. Thank you for being a part of it, and for welcoming this newsletter into your busy day!
The Great Wall of Capital
Fundraising for buyouts in Asia is robusto:
- Baring Asia is reportedly going to market for a $6B fund
- Blackstone is reportedly marketing its first pan-Asia fund at $3B
- The Carlyle Group is wrapping up Asia V targeting $5B
- KKR closed on its Asian Fund III at $9.3B
- MBK Partners closed Fund IV at $4.1B
- TPG is targeting $4.5B for Asia VII
- Warburg Pincus closed its China fund with $2B
Seven funds. $34 billion. There are others.
That is a lot of granola; it’s on par with the aggregate hauls for EM PE funds in each of the last two years.
In other news, KKR inked a deal this month with Great Wall International to bring leveraged loans to China. There’s a joke in here about Barbarians at the Gate, but I’ll stop.
LP Views on Latin America
LAVCA teamed up with Cambridge Associates for the second time on their annual LP opinion survey. There are some interesting findings the study, such as the discovery that 53% of LPs considering a first investment in Latin America view currency volatility as the biggest impediment to investing in the region. (Recency bias?)
My favorite exhibit explores LPs’ preferred means of accessing LatAm:
- Most LPs plan to access LatAm via pan-regional funds
- Brazil is the country of the future …
- Proportionally, more Latin American LPs expect to access LatAm PE via global funds than international LPs (statistically insignificant, but the fact that they’re close strikes me as interesting)
The societal parasite that is Facebook is entering the small business lending space, starting with merchant cash advances. This is a fairly fascinating development. The company has already effectively become the Internet for a large number of people; will it become a lender of first resort for small businesses? Given the vast swathes of data that Facebook collects, one might surmise that they could develop an edge in credit scoring that could benefit businesses with lower rates and Facebook with a large loan book. My interest is piqued.
In related news, EMPEA’s Q3 data show that capital invested in fintech companies through September ($416M) has already exceeded last year’s total ($379M). Aggregate fintech deal value is on track to match or exceed those for 2014 ($470M) and 2015 ($509M).
Every so often, a leader steps up and makes a bold pronouncement, and market sentiment shifts. Think of Warren Buffet going long Goldman in the depths of the crisis, or Jamie Dimon plunking $26 million of his own cash on JPM shares in February 2016 (now up ~70%).
Has Seymur Tari of Turkven made a gambit to shift opinion in Turkey? Following a summer IPO of jeans retailer Mavi, Tari appears to be getting bulled-up on the market. Last month, Tari announced that the firm plans to list Medical Park Group in an offering that could fetch $1B. (Maybe?) Moreover, Turkven is planning to execute “three to four acquisitions of $50-400 million each in 2018 … and to start a new fund of more than $1 billion in one or two years,” according to Reuters.
I admire the verve. Turkey has been in the doldrums, and local business and consumer sentiment has been in a downtrend for seven years (see below). Is the tide turning?
From the Bookshelf
The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world.
Charlatanism of some degree is indispensable to effective leadership. There can be no mass movement without some deliberate misrepresentation of facts.
— Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (Perennial: 1966).
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