Permira adds China adviser, eyes Asia growth

The private equity firm is seeking to source investment opportunities in Greater China and has named Beijing-based David Ho, Nokia’s former China president, as senior adviser.
David Ho: advisory role
David Ho: advisory role

Private equity firm Permira has appointed Nokia’s former China president David Ho as a senior adviser as it seeks to unearth investment opportunities in the Greater China region.

Ho, who is based in Beijing, will assist Permira’s Hong Kong-based team in strategic planning, meeting on an ad hoc basis to discuss potential investments and bolster their contact network.

The 51-year-old has a track record of building businesses in China. Since 2008 he has been chairman of Kiina Group, an investment firm backing information and technology start-ups in Greater China.

Previously he spent 27 years in the telecoms industry, holding various senior positions at Nokia. He also ran Nortel Networks’ China business for three years and spent six years with Motorola’s cellular infrastructure division in China.

Henry Chen, head of Permira’s Hong Kong office, says Ho will advise on opportunities across sectors including technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) – one of Permira’s core sector preferences along with consumer, industrials, financial services and healthcare.

“From an industry perspective, [Ho] has a great track record and network in the TMT sector in China,” he notes. “We look to him to give us the guidance and connect us with the right people in the context of China and beyond in Greater China.

“From a country perspective, we look to David for his strong network beyond TMT. He is on the board of Dongfang Electric and Sino Steel and has strong government relations. So in terms of TMT, government and important private sector relationships in China, we are very excited to have David on board.”

Permira utilises a network of industry advisers around the world in a similar capacity. Globally it has about 100 investment professionals, of whom four are based in Hong Kong and four in Tokyo.

Chen confirms that Permira is seeking to add to its team focused on China and Greater China. The company opened its Hong Kong office in October 2008 and its Tokyo office about five years ago.

Permira is a European-based firm that started in 1985 and has about €20 billion ($28 billion) in committed capital. Its funds, raised from pension funds and institutions, make long-term investments in companies with the aim of transforming their performance and driving sustainable growth.

In Asia it has made three investments so far – Galaxy Entertainment in Macau in 2007, Arysta Life Sciences in Tokyo in early 2008 and Asia Broadcast Satellite this summer – with about €1.5 billion invested.

At present it is investing from a pool of about €10 billion in its fourth global fund, which was formed in late 2006. It has a little less than €2 billion remaining for further investments.

Chen notes that the opportunities in China are in growth capital given the macroeconomic environment. But he points out that with public valuations going up and the IPO market wide open, entry valuations are increasing, particularly in light of the competition for the money that continues to pour into the country for investment.

“The entry valuation is getting higher and higher for the kind of private equity investment that we are looking for,” he adds. “We just have to be very disciplined in identifying the right opportunities for the funds where additional capital is needed, but where impact can be made through management driving change to their business.”

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