With four investments, four partial exits, two IPOs and a string of dividend payments over the past 12 months, Bain Capital was named firm of the year at the 2015 AVCJ Private Equity and Venture Capital Awards.
Jean Eric Salata, CEO of Baring Private Equity Asia, picked up two awards - one for private equity professional of the year and the other for large cap fundraise - while Ta-lin Hsu, chairman and founder of H&Q Asia Pacific, won the AVCJ Special Achievement Award. A total of 15 prizes were presented, with Pacific Equity Partners, CVC Capital Partners, Navis Capital Partners, Ascendent Capital Partners, Sequoia Capital and Banyan Capital also among the winners.
"This is the second time we've won this award and we really appreciate it this year because we've done the most deals we've ever done, the most exits," said Jim Hildebrandt, managing director at Bain. It has been a really active year for us across Japan, China, India and Australia."
The awards - distributed based on nominations and votes cast by Asia's PE and VC community, with contributions from a select panel of industry judges and the AVCJ Editorial Board - recognized activity for the 12 months ended September 2015. During this period, Bain has been notably prolific in Japan, securing three investments and an IPO for restaurant chain Skylark.
Japan featured strongly across several categories, with Advantage Partners securing the mid cap deal of the year prize for SBI Life Living Corp. while Tokio Marine Capital took mid cap exit of the year for Bushu Pharmaceuticals. Over the course of four years, Tokio Marine turned Bushu into Japan's leading contract manufacturing organization (CMO) and a significant global player. It sold the business to Baring Asia last year, securing a 6x multiple and an IRR of 45.7%.
Bushu is one of several stand-out deals announced by Baring Asia in the past 12 months. The firm also completed its largest-ever buyout in corporate services provider Vistra Group and took a significant minority stake in Weetabix. On the fundraising side, Baring Asia's sixth pan-regional fund closed at $3.98 billion - winning the large cap fundraise prize - while the firm also raised its debut real estate fund.
Noting that he is celebrating his 20th year in Asian private equity, Salata said what has interested him the most is seeing how the industry has expanded. "What we tell a lot of our companies is that if you want to grow your business you have to try and grow the market - if the market grows, everyone grows. It is nice to see how the whole market is growing and I think the industry is poised for even further growth with the professionalism and all the service providers now supporting the industry."
H&Q Asia Pacific's Tsu also took the opportunity to look back on his three decades in the industry during which he has taken his firm from a Taiwan-focused joint venture to a region-wide investor that has managed 26 funds and $3.5 billion in assets.
Hsu observed that venture capital was not well understood when he started in the industry - to the point that people would avoid translating the term "risk capital" into Chinese because it was an immediate turn-off for groups considering fund investments. Now, though, the innovation that VC encourages has a transformative impact on people's lives.
"Innovation has the power to change the world, change behavior," Hsu said. "[Chinese Premier] Li Keqiang said he wants to see all Chinese to become entrepreneurs. The funding of these enterprises will become very important for the future and it will make the world do better."
Both Salata and Hsu underlined the fact that private equity can be a challenging business in Asia. This was further endorsed by Rodney Muse, managing partner at Navis, who collected the award for operational value-add. Navis held ECO Industrial Environmental Engineering for close to eight years - not all of them easy - before exiting with a 3.8x multiple and a 20% IRR.
"Making money in private equity is not easy. Making money in Navis without leverage in Southeast Asia is tougher still and it takes hard work and shoe leather and a lot of guts," Muse said. "[ECO Industrial] was a 12-round bout, if you think of a boxing match, and it could have gone either way. It was sheer constitution and hard work that ended in the very positive outcome you see now."The AVCJ Awards took place on the eve of the 2014 AVCJ Forum, which is being held in Hong Kong from November 3-5. For more information, please go to www.avcjforum.com. For further details on how the awards winners were chosen, please go to www.avcjforum.com/awards.