The PE/VC scene in Southeast Asia

Outlook

Investment activity in Southeast Asian PE/VC remains muted, after the frenzied 2017. Overall, deals have decreased by 34.72% in 2018 to US $14.1bn, from US $21.6bn in 2017.

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2018 however, still is a strong year for PE and VC activity, as deal count increases and exceeded 2017. Cash piles in Asia are reaching a record US $368.4bn (Preqin, 2018), but fund-raising on a whole declined instead, with a more competitive landscape and tougher market conditions. The funds raised for both PE and VC has declined by 74.16%, from US $29.8bn in 2017 to US $7.7bn in 2018.


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Amidst this is a backdrop of record high dry powder, at US $2.5tn and increased deal appetite in the States spills over globally. The largest ever real estate private deal was Blackstone’s purchase of GLP, a Singaporean firm with an extensive collection of industrial warehouses in the States for a tidy sum of US $18.7bn.


While the market has cooled somewhat from bullish 2017, 2018 was still another robust year for Southeast Asia.


Moving forward, as dry powder hits record highs, we believe that valuations and funding rounds are poised to bloom. On a similar note, valuation of PE multiples is close to all-time highs, with an increasingly wide disparity.

Region

Singapore continues its hegemony in Southeast Asia, with most deal flows centered around the city state, at US $6.7bn. Other major markets include Indonesia and Vietnam, but still lags far behind.


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Snapshot

Grab is a Southeast Asia’s most popular ride-hailing firm, having raised more than US $9.1bn. It is a late stage startup, at Series H. It is also the region’s most valued startup, at US $14bn. It has since branched out to financial services and mobile payments to diversify away from ride-hailing.


Gojek is Grab’s largest competitor, though it operates on a small scale and have only raised US $3.1bn so far. It is also at an earlier stage than Grab, at Series F. It is the region’s second decacorn (startups valued more than US $10), and has since entered the Singaporean ride-hailing field in 2019, Grab’s core market.


Lazada is an e-commerce platform and currently holds the crown of Southeast Asia’s most popular shopping destination. It has raised US $4.2bn so far, and is at Series G. That said, Lazada is 90% owned by Alibaba, where figures are reported under the consolidated accounts.


Tokopedia is Lazada’s competitor, and also an online market place. It is at Series G, having raised US$ 2.4bn so far. Likewise, Alibaba is another huge backer of this e-commerce platform, and is now valued at US$ 7bn.


Trends

The Southeast Asian market is highly lopsided, dominated by local unicorns where most funding is channeled to. The investment stalwarts include the GIC as usual, alongside established PE shops like KKR and Warburg Pincus.


The fundraising performance for funds are similarly lopsided; where capital is channeled disproportionately to firms with established names, reputable management, and strong track record.


This paints a very lopsided picture, where a winner-take-all environment is slowly emerging. If so, we foresee PE activity in Southeast Asia to slow.


Sector

Technology sector is the favored sector, alongside fintech, consumer products, and even manufacturing. Ecquitas’ pipeline of deals agrees with this, having seen significant interest in these industries.


Environment, social, and governance (ESG) investing has some presence in Southeast Asia, in line with increasing public concern and new demands of investors. Recent research also has disproved the myth of compromised returns in ESG. Impact investing is thus gaining some traction, though it still lags behind major players like Europe.

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