Western Australia is the country's fourth-largest state by population but the richest by natural resources and this has seen it emerge as the primary source of economic growth. This shift in momentum from east coast to west – coupled with the cyclical downturn in retail sector – is reflected in private equity investment trends.
"When I look at the Advent V portfolio, about one third of the investments are infrastructure or mining focused," says Rupert Harrington, managing director of Advent Private Capital, an Australian mid-market private equity firm. "In one case, there is full exposure to mining because it's an underground mining services company. In others, there is a variety of exposure to mining-related markets. In Advent VI, which we are currently raising, our first investment is mining services and about one third of the portfolio will be in this area."
As for retail, Advent has never been a big investor in the sector and this is unlikely to change. Harrington notes that retail sales are at a 50-year low in relation to real growth - an unusual situation in Australia, but perhaps one that reflects the commodities boom - while the sector itself is incredibly competitive. The highly concentrated ownership of shopping malls doesn't help firms with an eye on expansion.
"When we've looked growth businesses, there has been a significant increase in the rents in shopping centers," Harrington adds. "In essence you get a profit shift from the business to the landlord, and the disparity of negotiating power is a problem."
Looking at the principal challenges facing Australian private equity, Harrington highlights fundraising, primarily due to domestic LPs cutting back on their exposure to local funds. GPs that already have exposure to international investors - and can point to strong track records when pitching them for larger allocations - are therefore best positioned to cope with the changing environment.
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In 2015, China is expected to experience a "new normal of growth". For private equity investors, China's new stage of growth represents huge opportunities: an increase of 270% in online consumption, the reform of over a hundred sovereign-owned enterprises, trillion-dollar investments into overseas infrastructure projects, the rising entrance of young entrepreneurs, and many more.
To be held on 28 and 29 May, the 14th annual AVCJ China Forum 2015 in Beijing will feature these exciting topics and bring together top-notch speakers from across the world.Join the premium industrial gathering of over 300 private equity professionals, regulators and senior executives for two days of mind-provoking discussions, networking and more.
28-29 May 2015, China World Summit Wing,Beijing
There is a feeling that now is a shrewd time to invest in Japan and take advantage of the favourable conditions for private equity. Valuations are low compared with the rest of Asia and strategic buyers and the IPO market are providing an attractive route for exits. There are also signs that corporate Japan is slowly coming around to engaging PE as a potential buyer for non-core assets and recent developments at the GPIF suggest that PE will be under strong consideration for allocations from pension funds in the near future as well as regional banks committing to the asset class right now.
The macro concerns that have been present for many years still remain in terms of low growth and currency depreciation but these are encouraging times for fund managers looking to both raise capital from Japanese LPs and make investments.
245-26 June 2015, Conrad Hotel, Tokyo