It is a well established trend that Australian LPs are increasingly looking to internationalize their private equity exposure, arguably at the expense of domestic GPs. Foreign investors looking to enter Australia are not deterred. Sebastiaan van den Berg, managing director at HarbourVest Partners, has no plans to scale back, citing the country’s stable economy, rule of law and experienced GP community.
He does admit, however, that the retreat of domestic LPs leaves their foreign counterparts in a bind. "Perhaps from a more selfish perspective, less capital driving up valuations is better - to the extent that less capital is raised, we probably benefit from that net-net," he tells AVCJ TV. "But we want the GP community here to be successful and it's important for Australian LPs to be long-term active participants."
Nevertheless, an increasingly discerning domestic LP base and weaker economic conditions - Australia's natural resources sector is thriving, but this doesn't extend to the retail space, for example - have created more challenging conditions for GPs. Van den Berg doesn't expect everyone to survive, noting that, unlike six years ago, a rising tide is no longer floating all boats.
"What is happening now, as it becomes increasingly difficult to rely on the global macro environment and multiples arbitrage, the only way you can get attractive returns is through strong operational improvements," he says. "Only a few GPs are really good at that, so you probably will see some go out of business or merge and consolidate. That in itself is not a bad thing."
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The outlook for the Australasian market is positive as a record number of IPO exits have provided strong returns for investors and has proven that PE can outperform listed equities and compete with global divestment figures. Fundraising in terms of dollar value has been high but the number of PE funds successfully raising new commitments has declined as investors flock to the best in class.
This is an intriguing time for Australasian PE as the industry continues to mature. GPs must evolve, diversify and display skills to drive value in a low-growth environment and justify future commitments when competing on a global state by achieving world-class results from current deals and exits.
4-6 March 2015, The Westin, Sydney
The AVCJ Indonesia Forum is back for a fourth year! Mark your calendars now and join us on March 24th, 2015 in Jakarta at Indonesia's longest running, largest and most prestigious industry gathering.
The market is relatively optimistic as a new government that is viewed favourable to a balanced investment arena is introduced and we see an increase in deal activity. The hopes for a flourishing PE market amid the euphoria of 2012 has not yet been realised but the potential is still present and now may well be the time for the country to take off in its own right and increase its reputation as THE hot market in Southeast Asia.
24 March 2015, Grand Hyatt, Jakarta