Private-equity managers in Asia are beginning to participate in the worldwide boom in clean technology funds
Perhaps the biggest trend in private equity right now is investing in cleantech, a term that refers to products or services that improve operational performance, productivity or efficiency, while reducing energy consumption, waste and pollution. And PE managers in Asia are introducing the region's first dedicated cleantech funds, says Preqin, a London-based consultancy specialising in private equity and infrastructure.
According to Preqin, there are now four Asia-based PE funds trying to raise capital for dedicated cleantech funds. The two largest are from Hong Kong-based First Vanguard, which is raising $500 million for the China and Pacific Rim Water Infrastructure Fund; and Singapore-based Middle East & Asia Capital Partners, which is raising $400 million for its MAP Clean Energy Fund.
There are two more players raising $250 million funds: in Singapore, Ant Global Partners is financing its Ant Global Partners Cleantech Fund; and in Malaysia, Abundance Venture Capital seeks capital for its AVC Abundance Energy Fund.
The first private-equity or venture-capital fund to include a cleantech focus, within a diversified portfolio, emerged in 2005 in India, where IDFC closed a $440 million infrastructure fund. Then in 2006, China's Prax Capital closed a $153 million fund that included cleantech themes, as did China's Northern Light Venture Capital, which closed a $350 million fund.
Since then activity has picked up: in 2008, funds in India, China and Hong Kong closed over $5 billion worth of diversified funds that included cleantech plays, while earlier this year, Singapore's SEAVI Advent closed a $178 million diversified buyout fund.
Preqin says there are now at least 10 PE funds trying to raise capital towards themes that include cleantech, of which four are dedicated, as mentioned above. Together these 10 seek to raise up to $3.6 billion, with the four dedicated funds accounting for $1.4 billion of that.
Preqin has released a report on cleantech funds that shows huge interest among institutional investors and funds of funds. Despite the global financial crisis, overall cleantech fundraising remained steady in 2008, with 29 funds raising a total of $6 billion worldwide, roughly the same as was raised in 2007. The majority has gone to VC funds, with infrastructure funds also playing a big role.
In North America, funds this year seek to raise up to $9 billion, making this the biggest market, followed by European funds, which want to raise over $7 billion, Preqin says.
The consultants also find more than half of cleantech-focused VC firms prefer to take minority stakes, while buyout and infrastructure firms mostly prefer controlling stakes. For institutional investors, these funds represent the preferred means of accessing cleantech themes, as opposed to via the public markets, because the sector is too new to be well represented in the listed space.