Blackstone yuan fund on track: Executives

By Shen Jingting (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-10-20 08:21
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SHANGHAI - Blackstone Group, the world's biggest private equity firm, has raised more than half of the money for its first yuan fund since it started raising capital for the fund last year, said Antony Leung, the group's chairman for Greater China.

Leung said he is not sure about the exact time when funding closes but he was confident of a successful fund-raising of 5 billion yuan ($750 million) for Blackstone's first onshore fund.

"We are still waiting for our biggest investor," Leung said in an interview on the 40th floor of the Hilton Hotel in downtown Shanghai, together with Stephen Schwarzman, chairman and CEO of the Blackstone Group.

Leung declined to confirm who the fund's biggest investor is, although it was reported to be China's national pension fund - the National Social Security Fund.

Last October, Blackstone incorporated an investment subsidiary in Shanghai and started the capital-raising process for its first yuan fund from domestic institutional investors.

It was reported that Shanghai-based Lujiazui Financial Development Co invested 2 billion yuan in the Blackstone China fund.

Blackstone yuan fund on track: Executives

The fund, which is called the Blackstone Zhonghua Development Investment Fund, plans to invest primarily in the Shanghai area, with clean technology and environmental protection as key focuses.

Blackstone's move is among a wave of yuan funds being established by foreign private equity firms since 2009. Rival buyout firms such as the Carlyle Group had teamed up with China's largest non-State-owned conglomerate, Fosun Group, to launch a $100 million yuan fund in February.

Before that, Carlyle cooperated with the Beijing municipal government to set up a 5 billion yuan fund in January and said it could conduct investments "instantly".

Texas Pacific Group also launched two yuan funds in August. Both plan to raise 5 billion yuan and will work with the Shanghai and Chongqing governments, respectively.

Blackstone's Leung said his company does not have plans to launch a second yuan fund as the firm wants to focus on things "one by one".

Analysts said a locally registered fund on the Chinese mainland requires less regulatory approval for some investments and use of foreign exchange, with better access to local targets.

Meanwhile, the steady growth of China's economy is creating many investment opportunities, combined with broader exit channels for foreign capital since the establishment of the growth enterprise board in Shenzhen last year, so the impetus to set up yuan funds is increasingly strong for foreign private equity firms.

Blackstone entered the Chinese mainland in 2007. It has made six investments so far, including a stake in the agricultural products distributor Dili Group Holdings Co this year and a 20 percent stake in National BlueStar Group, a specialty chemicals maker, in 2008.

The total investment for Blackstone in China has surpassed $1 billion and Schwarzman, 63, who founded Blackstone in 1985, said he will be very happy to increase the pace and investment in China.

"China has excellent long-term prospects. We would like to participate in the economy here to the maximum," Schwarzman said.

"We are in no rush to make investments at wrong prices just to prove we can say 'yes'," Schwarzman said. He admitted that Blackstone may lose in many situations when competing with rivals in China, but it is still "OK with that".

Schwarzman said Blackstone did not anticipate any significant price appreciation in profitable units.

He also said tightening policies of the Chinese government to intervene in the market price of properties was "appropriate".

"If property goes up too quickly, what often happens is that it goes down just as fast," Schwarzman said.

China Daily

(China Daily 10/20/2010 page16)