Month: February 2013

Direct Secondary Investment Opportunities in China Private Equity


As detailed follow-up to our report on the current challenging crisis of unexited PE investments in China, China First Capital has prepared a new research note. You can download the abridged version by clicking here.

This note provides far more detailed data and analysis on the unexited PE deals: by industry, original deal size, currency, round, and most importantly, “tier of PE”. This should give a more concrete understanding of the current opportunity in direct secondaries in China, as well as numerical challenges all GPs active in China will face exiting.

China First Capital is currently the only firm with this data and analysis. In addition to this note, we will also share in coming weeks three others research notes:

1. Secondary deals modeled on prospective IRR and hold periods
2. Risk-scoring metrics for primary and secondary deals in China
3. Portfolio analytics specific to primary and secondary investments in China

Beyond this work, shared as a service to our industry, to help facilitate the development of an efficient and liquid exit channel of direct secondaries in China, everything else will remain our confidential work product to be deployed only for clients that retain us. An introduction to our secondaries services is available by clicking here.


China Securities News: 中国首创投资董事长:二级市场并购有望发力


If your Chinese is up to it –  or perhaps if you want to see how well-designed the best Chinese newspapers are — click here to see the story today in China Securities News (中国证券报) that includes both an interview with me and excerpts from our Chinese-language report on the crisis in Chinese private equity.

Unlike the sorry situation in the US and elsewhere, newspapers in China are still thriving. The leading papers, including China Securities News, have large nationwide readership and distribution, with the large profits to match. And no, the contents are not fiercely censored. If they were, no one would buy them.

I’m quite chuffed this paper devotes so much space to our report and its conclusions. It’s an affirmation of what a great job my China First Capital colleagues did in preparing the Chinese version. My own modest hope is that this article, together with several others that have appeared recently in other mainstream Chinese business publications, will help catalyze a more active discussion of the current crisis in the PE industry in China. There is, as my interview emphasizes, a lot at stake for China.

The sudden stop of both IPOs and new private equity investment in China means that private companies are being denied access to much-needed capital to finance growth. This is already beginning to have serious impact on China’s private sector and the economy as a whole. I foresee no significant change coming anytime soon. For private entrepreneurs, these are dark days indeed. Keep in mind, China’s private sector now accounts for over half of gdp — and it’s the “half” that provides most of new jobs as well as just about every product and service ordinary Chinese enjoy spending money on.

As a lot of non-Chinese speakers have heard, the Chinese words “crisis” and “opportunity” share a common root (危机,机会). There is much wisdom in this. The current crisis in China PE is also perhaps the best opportunity ever for stronger PEs to find and close great investments, through purchases of what we call “Quality Secondaries”.

Investment opportunities don’t get much riper than this one.


Chinese Market Loses Its Bite — Private Equity News Magazine



Download complete text

A stagnant exit market is likely to cause problems for firms that ventured into China in the boom years

Statistics rarely tell the whole story. However, as China celebrates the Year of the Snake, the most recent figures for private equity exits in the country make sobering reading for those who were convinced that the surge in private equity in the world’s most populated nation was the ticket to easy returns. In the final quarter of 2012, there was no capital raised by sponsors through primary initial public offerings of companies they backed, no capital raised through sales to strategic buyers and just $30 million from secondary buyouts, according to data from Dealogic.
That collapse in the exit market is creating a huge backlog of businesses in private equity hands that could force many companies to the wall and drive a shakeout in the industry, losing investors billions in the process. Global private equity firms, from large buyout specialists TPG Capital and Carlyle Group to mid-market players like 3i Group, all flooded
into the Chinese market raising capital from international investors for deals on the expectation of outsized returns as the economy opened and boomed. They were joined by thousands of domestic players that raised capital in local currency from the growing band of China’s wealthy individuals eager to get a slice of the market.

Incredible Success

Peter Fuhrman, chairman and CEO of investment bank China First Capital, said: “In the course of the last five years China has grown into the largest market by far for the raising and deploying of growth capital in the world. It has been an incredible success story when it comes to talking investors into opening up their wallets and allocating much-needed capital to thousands of outstanding Chinese entrepreneurs.” More…



Private Equity Slows in China as Investors Can’t Find the Exit — Institutional Investor


Download complete text

12 FEB 2013 – ALLEN T. CHENG

China’s once-booming private equity industry is facing a logjam as a dearth of exit possibilities is slowing the flow of new deals in the sector, analysts and industry executives say.

The volume of private equity activity slowed dramatically last year, with some $17 billion invested in more than 700 companies, down from more than $30 billion invested in more than 1,700 companies in 2011, according to China First Capital, a Shenzhen-based investment advisory firm. Virtually all deals in China are minority equity investments in fast-growing private companies rather than buyouts of public companies as in the West. The industry was virtually nonexistent in China at the start of the 2000s but grew rapidly as Western investors rushed to participate in the country’s economic boom.

“You had an industry that grew very quickly but is not yet fully matured,” says Peter Fuhrman, chairman and CEO of China First Capital. “The PE firms raised huge money from LPs around the world and now face the challenge of not being able to exit their investments before the life cycle of their funds run out,” Fuhrman says. More…


An Unfamiliar Chinese Byline — 21st Century Business Herald




I can’t say I ever articulated it as a goal, because it always seemed too far-fetched. But, I did achieve something today I truly value. I had an article published in a leading Chinese newspaper under my own name. Well, not the name my parents gave me, but my Chinese name, 傅成, which is how I’m generally known here. You can click here to see the article. The title, IPO黄金时代一去不返 私募股权行业危机重重, can be translated as “With the Golden Age of IPOs Over,  the Chinese PE Industry is in Crisis”.

It’s an article about problems with unexited PE investments in China, and the block on IPOs for Chinese companies. It appears in the country’s only major national business daily, called 21st Century Business Herald, in English, or 21世纪报纸 in Chinese. Calling it the “Wall Street Journal of China” is a little bit of a disservice, since it enjoys more of a dominant position, both in reputation and in its area of financial reporting, than even the Journal. And I give way to no one in my complete admiration of the WSJ. It is the only newspaper I read and value.

I’ve been an occasional online columnist for 21st Century Business Herald for a couple of years. This may have made them more comfortable when dealing with my rather unusual request, to publish in the daily paper’s news pages under my name an article I submitted to them. This isn’t something Chinese newspapers, especially the major ones, would generally ever do. Media is sensitive in China, extremely well-monitored. I’m just a guy who runs a small advisory firm 1,500 miles from Beijing, and have had no other form of official vetting.

After a day of deliberating, I got word they’d agreed to run the story. I never spoke directly to any of the editors at the newspaper. I wasn’t allowed to. One of the team that manages the online columns acted as middleman.

It was important to me to have the article, as submitted, published, under my name. The article touches on a topic that I think is both important, and little understood — that the block in IPO exits, and the simultaneous cut-off in most new PE funding for private companies in China, is beginning to do real harm to the private sector economy in China. I wanted to make that point, directly and clearly, and not have it be massaged in any way.

I’m a guest in China, and feel extraordinarily privileged to live and work here. There’s nothing in my story critical of government policies, nor should there be. This crisis in China PE industry is largely of its own making.  Yes, the sudden stop of all IPOs does harm to PE investors. But, for years now, China’s PE industry has been overly-reliant on IPO as its one means of exit. Money flooded in and, even at the best of times, only a trickle leaked out through IPO. Now the trickle has been plugged shut. PE firms, their investors and the entrepreneurs they backed are all in serious peril. PEs may lose their LPs money, which would be very unfortunate. But, the real suffering is likely to be borne by the entrepreneurs, who may actually be doing a great job running their business, but now have a desperate unhappy investor inside and so no way to raise the additional capital they need to keep growing. They face a kind of slow asphyxiation.

Another reason I wanted the article to be published under my name was to try to make sure my company got some credit for the work we’ve done over six months to calculate and assess the scale of the problem of unexited deals in China. The article was published this morning. By lunchtime, electronic versions were popping up all over the Chinese internet, on most of the major financial news websites. In almost all cases, these repackaged versions all deleted my name and that of China First Capital. Pretty much par for the course in China. “Journalistic ethics” are two words not frequently paired in China. The pirated articles now discuss the findings of our research without ever mentioning who actually compiled it. If I were a reader, I’d wonder, “why should I believe any of these numbers when the article doesn’t tell me who the source is?” But, I guess Chinese readers aren’t that fussed.

As readers of this blog clearly will have noticed,  me and my company have gotten rather a lot of English-language press attention lately. But, not a single one of those articles, or the whole lump combined, gives me even a fraction of the satisfaction and joy I had this morning holding a Chinese newspaper and finding my article in the middle of page 15.




Five Minutes with Peter Fuhrman — Private Equity International Magazine

Download complete text

The chairman of research firm China First Capital discusses China’s growing exit problem, and its possible impact on private equity in 2013.

A growing concern for private equity in China is the lack of IPO exits. How do you see that playing out in 2013?

“I don’t expect any substantial improvement or change in the problems that are blocking IPO exits domestically and internationally. And because the China private equity industry is significantly over-allocated to IPO exits, along with diminishing fund life, [this] will be a time of increasing difficulty for GPs. At the same time, the inability to exit will also continue to prevent [GPs] from doing new deals, and that is where the greatest economic harm will be done. Of course I don’t trivialise the importance of the $100 billion that’s locked away in unexited PE investments, but the real victims of this are going to be the private entrepreneurs of China. At this point, over half of all [China’s] GDP activity is generated from the private sector. The private equity money and the IPO money is what [businesses] need to grow, because private companies in China basically can’t borrow. They need private equity money and IPO proceeds to continue to thrive. “  More…