PE firms see returns rise in 13, hurdles to fund-raising

Written by Shruti Ambavat | Mumbai | Updated: Dec 10 2012, 05:33am hrs
Private equity (PE) firms in India believe prospects will improve in 2013 as the public market slowly opens up and secondary deals rise, although fund-raising will remain a challenge for many.

The outlook for PE in 2013 and 2014 is obviously challenging for fund-raising. I would say the industry is optimistically cautious as the scenario looks better than the last two years, said Gulpreet Kohli, managing director at ChrysCapital Investment Advisors. Exits will be good only if the IPO (initial public offering) market picks up and the few IPOs in 2012 are test cases for future prospects.

If the IPO market improves, you will see several exits through these. Several of the PE portfolio companies have filed their documents with Sebi (the Securities and Exchange Board of India) and are ready to go to market when there is a decent window, said Vikram Utamsingh, head of transactions and restructuring and private equity advisory at consultancy firm KPMG India.

There was one IPO listed in November, which raised $1.56 million from the public. The total amount raised through IPOs between January and December 2011 was $1.20 billion from 30 IPOs, according to the latest Dealtracker report by consultancy firm Grant Thornton.

There are a lot of opportunities for PE firms in India next year because there is bound to be a shortage of capital here. Also, the days of lobbying are over and most of the sectors are open to foreign investment, said a senior fund manager of a foreign PE fund.

The number of quality opportunities has increased as more and more firms today need capital. The number of funds competing against each other for deals has gone down. As PE and venture capital firms mature, they pay the right price for a stake in the firm and the deals are closing faster than usual. Today, PE firms focus on exits right at the beginning of a partnership, they keep the exit strategy clear, said Sachin Maheshwari, director at venture capital firm Zephyr Peacock India Management.

There were a total of 378 PE deals in India amounting over $7.04 billion investment between January and November this year, according to Grant Thornton. Pharmaceuticals, healthcare and banking and financial services together received 42% of the total PE investments.

However, the opening of the public markets is a moment of joy for few. Only companies of a large size and strength will be well received at the IPO, said Kohli of ChrysCapital.

Exits in mid-cap companies can take a while as some of these tend not to be very liquid, said Devinjit Singh, managing director at Carlyle India Advisors. Limited partners or investors need to see successful returns from India, Singh added.

There will be pressure on exits as 2006 investments will have now reached seven years. Given that the life of a typical fund is eight to nine years, these investments will have to be exited in some way, perhaps even at a loss, said Utamsingh of KPMG.

Though the economic environment is improving, investors are still wary of the way ahead. Policy changes are required in the infrastructure sector for attracting capital, a key imperative for growth. What the government does in the next six months will be critical, said Archana Hingorani, chief executive officer and executive director at IL&FS Investment Managers.

Another interesting (and growing) trend in 2013 will be secondary deals and limited partner (LP) to LP change of hands. In funds which are under water on investments, the LPs on those funds will look to exit the funds by selling to other LPs at a discount. These deals will take place outside India and so will not really be tracked in the Indian market. But if they happen, then the new LPs will provide a lease of life to the funds to continue holding on its investments and try in some manner to generate better returns, Utamsingh said. In 2012 so far, 25 out of 94 exits were through secondaries, ie, PE to PE transactions. We can expect this trend to continue as there is a very large pool of good portfolio companies and the larger PE funds are targeting these companies for transactions.

PE firms find the Indian consumer growth story intact. Domestic consumption sectors like healthcare, pharmaceuticals and financial services and export-oriented, IT-related services will remain attractive, said Kohli of ChrysCapital.

Consumer-oriented sectors will be well accepted by the market, said Girish Nadkarni, partner at IDFC Private Equity.

Carlyle is always evaluating opportunities to deploy more capital in India. Sectors like financial services, consumer, healthcare and information technology are attractive, Singh of Carlyle said.

The sectors of interest will continue to be domestic-driven like consumer, financial services, food and agriculture, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and logistics, said Utamsingh.

Venture capital firms believe that they will be well positioned for 2013 than the larger funds. As there are many start-ups being formed, I see more opportunities for venture capital investment rather than large ones for PE firms, said Maheshwari of Zephyr Peacock.