Baring Private Equity Asia (BPEA) and Quadrant Private Equity won the firm of the year prizes at the 2021 AVCJ Private Equity & Venture Capital Awards, as KKR and NewQuest Capital Partners secured two victories apiece, and Weijian Shan received the AVCJ Special Achievement Award.

A total of 16 prizes were presented – some of the recipients attended in person, others virtually – across categories recognizing excellence in fundraising, investment, exits, responsible investment, and value creation.

BPEA’s honor came on the back of a 12-month period during which $8 billion in liquidity was generated from a dozen companies. These ranged from an IPO and subsequent sell-down in Telus International to a trade sale of Logen to partial exits from Lumenis, Clarivate Analytics, and Coforge. The firm also made eight new investments across the business services, consumer, and technology sectors.

Accepting the award, Gordon Shaw, a managing director at BPEA, credited the firm’s achievements to a cohesive culture. “It really is a team effort,” he said.

Australia-based Quadrant also recorded a string of new investments and exits, while closing two funds: A$1.24 billion ($938 million) for its latest flagship buyout strategy and A$530 million for a second growth vehicle. In addition, Quadrant also became the first Asia-based manager to make the top 10 of the HEC-Dow Jones Private Equity Ranking.

Marcus Darville, a managing partner, emphasized Quadrant’s ambition to be “the leading partnership firm in Australia” – whether that means working with founders, corporates, or other private equity investors – with a view to taking companies to next level.

KKR was recognized for its achievements in responsible investment and fundraising. The firm claimed the responsible investment prize for steps taken with Australia-based snack foods business The Arnott’s Group to introduce less resource-intensive manufacturing and create a path to net-zero emissions. Meanwhile, its $15 billion fourth pan-Asian fund won Fundraising of the Year – Large Cap.

“It was a great fundraise – over 80 new LPs during a full year of COVID fundraising, that’s a nice achievement,” said Markus Egloff, head of Asia wealth at KKR, referencing the fact that of the 290 participating investors in Fund IV, 80 were new to the firm’s Asia private equity franchise.

The other two fundraising awards, for venture capital and mid-cap strategies, went to China-based 5Y Capital and India’s Kedaara Capital, respectively.

In the investment categories, the small-cap and mid-cap prizes went to funding rounds – featuring multiple investors – for technology start-ups: Indonesia online stockbroking platform Ajaib, and Korean flea market app operator Danggeun Market. At the other end of the spectrum, a $4.6 billion, Centurium Capital-led take-private of US-listed China Biologic Products Holdings claimed the large-cap honors.

Several transactions viewed as transformational – for the geographies in which they took place or for the firms involved – triumphed in the exits categories. They included the $1.26 billion IPO of Indian dining platform Zomato, the first of what is expected to become a steady stream of listings on domestic stock exchanges by pre-profit technology companies.

“It really has broken the myth that fast-growing tech companies that are investing for the future cannot be great successful public market candidates. Thanks to Zomato, I think there is a whole slew of start-ups that are going to benefit from that,” said Mohit Bhatnagar, a managing director at Sequoia Capital India, one of the company’s earliest backers.

Also in India, ChrysCapital took the mid-cap exit prize for Infogain, the firm’s first majority transaction and arguably the first cross-border US transaction by an Indian private equity firm. It exited the IT consulting business with a 6.4x return. Meanwhile, CVC Capital Partners won large-cap exit for the sale of its minority interest in personal care products player Softex Indonesia to Kimberly-Clark.

Brian Hong, co-head of Southeast Asia at CVC, highlighted the challenges of launching a sale process was launched at the height of COVID-19, with Indonesia was about to enter lockdown, and dealing with a US multinational buyer. “It shows that when you buy strategic assets you are able to sell them in almost any conditions because buyers will come after them,” he said.

The small-cap exit prize went to NewQuest Capital Partners and the turnaround of Integreon, a Philippines-based business process outsourcing player that was inefficient and bloated, having failed to properly integrate previous acquisitions. The GP restructured the company and revamped the sales strategy, exiting with a more than 5x return.

Bonnie Lo, a managing partner at NewQuest, noted it is one of few control situations in which the firm – a specialist secondaries investor – has found itself. “We went in there, changed all the management, changed the board, put in systems and operations, opened offices and shut offices – we did everything we could think of in terms of operational improvement,” she said.

Integreon was also one of two recipients of the Operational Value Add award, alongside Allegro Funds, which completed a successful turnaround in Australia’s retail sector with Best & Less.

Unlike the main fundraising, investment, and exit categories, the Operational Value Add and Responsible Investment awards are not decided through a combination of judges’ recommendations and public vote. The winners are chosen based on recommendations from separate specialist judging panels. Meanwhile, the AVCJ Special Achievement Award is given at the discretion of the AVCJ editorial board with industry input.

The latter prize acknowledges the role played by an individual in the development of the industry over a long period of time. Shan’s career in private equity began in 1998 when he became head of the nascent Newbridge Capital Asia operation. The firm was responsible for several breakthrough transactions in the region, including Korea First Bank and Shenzhen Development Bank.

Shan became a managing partner at TPG Capital after it absorbed Newbridge and then moved to PAG in 2010, establishing the firm’s private equity business. PAG has gone on to raise five funds, across buyout and growth strategies, raising around $13 billion. In typically self-effacing fashion, Shan claimed to be humbled by the recognition, adding: “I am sure this is a mistake.”

The winners in full:

  • Fundraising of the Year – Venture Capital: 5Y Capital Evolution Fund II & 5Y Capital Growth Fund I (5Y Capital)
  • Fundraising of the Year – Mid Cap: Kedaara Capital III (Kedaara Capital)
  • Fundraising of the Year – Large Cap: KKR Asian Fund IV (KKR)
  • Deal of the Year – Small Cap: Ajaib (Alpha JWC Ventures/Horizons Ventures/Insignia Ventures/SoftBank Ventures Asia/Y Combinator)
  • Deal of the Year – Mid Cap: Danggeun Market (Altos Ventures/Aspex Management/Capstone Partners/DST Global/Goodwater Capital/Kakao Ventures/Reverent Partners/SoftBank Ventures Asia/Strong Ventures)
  • Deal of the Year – Large Cap: China Biologic Products Holdings (Centurium Capital/Hillhouse Capital/Temasek Holdings/Trustar Capital)
  • Exit of the Year – IPO: Zomato (Ant Group/Baillie Gifford/Bow Wave Capital Management/D1 Capital Partners/ Dragoneer Investment Group/Fidelity/Glade Brook Capital/Info Edge India/Kora Management/Sequoia Capital India/Shunwei Capital/Temasek Holdings/Tiger Global Management/Uber/Vy Capital)
  • Exit of the Year – Small Cap: Integreon (NewQuest Capital Partners)
  • Exit of the Year – Mid Cap: Infogain (ChrysCapital)
  • Exit of the Year – Large Cap: Softex Indonesia (CVC Capital Partners)
  • Operational Value Add Awards: Best & Less (Allegro Funds) & Integreon (NewQuest Capital Partners)
  • Responsible Investment Award: The Arnott’s Group (KKR)
  • Firm of the Year – Mid Cap: Quadrant Private Equity
  • Firm of the Year – Large Cap: Baring Private Equity Asia
  • AVCJ Special Achievement Award: Weijian Shan

Many thanks to the judges...

Main categories: Adams Street Partners, Allianz Capital Partners, AlpInvest Partners, Asia Alternatives, Azimuth Asset Consulting, Capital Dynamics, Future Fund, HarbourVest Partners, HQ Capital, LGT Capital Partners, Morgan Stanley Alternative Investment Partners, Pantheon, Portfolio Advisors, StepStone Group

Operational Value Add Award: AlixPartners, Alvarez & Marsal, Anchor Strategic Partners, Bain & Company, KPMG, PwC

Responsible Investment Award: Asian Development Bank, Control Risks, GPCA, LGT Capital Partners, Turnkey Group

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