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Champ Private Equity opens Singapore office

Australia’s Champ Private Equity group, an affiliate of New York-based mid-market specialist Castle Harlan, has announced the opening of a Singapore office.

Australia’s Champ Private Equity group, an affiliate of New York-based mid-market specialist Castle Harlan, has announced the opening of a Singapore office. Champ – Castle Harlan Australian Mezzanine Partners – claims to be the longest-established private equity operator in Australia, and is currently investing the AUD950m Champ II Buyout fund.

‘This step-out into Singapore is a logical extension of our steadily increasing engagement in the region,’ says executive chairman Bill Ferris. ‘Champ has always encouraged and assisted its portfolio companies to expand into Asian markets. Relevance in Asia will be an increasing priority and test for Australian and New Zealand businesses, so we are positioning ourselves to ensure we can meaningfully help them.’

Managing director Nathaniel Childres, who has been with Champ since its establishment by Castle Harlan and a local partner seven years ago, will relocate to Singapore from the beginning of next year to lead the investment team.

Childres lived and worked in south-east Asia during the 1990s as an attorney and foreign investment advisor with international law firm White & Case, and has recently been leading Champ’s increasing activity in the region.

‘One key focus for the Singapore investment team will be on supporting existing Champ portfolio companies in implementing Asian expansion strategies, notably bolt-on acquisitions and other strategic initiatives in the region,’ Childres says.

‘Champ has a long track record of supporting its portfolio companies with M&A activity and other hands-on strategic support. The Singapore office will significantly enhance our capability to support our companies in identifying, acquiring and managing acquisitions and joint ventures in the wider region.’

The Singapore investment team will also focus on originating and completing middle market acquisitions in south-east Asia that can benefit from Champ’s network in Australia and New Zealand, as well as from the those of Castle Harlan in the US.

Childres will be joined by Shane Gong, an associate director recruited from Australian-based international investment bank and private equity investor Macquarie in Singapore, along with an associate due to be recruited in the near future to complete the investment team.

A Champ Asia advisory board will consist of Koh Boon Hwee, chairman of the DBS Group in Singapore and a member of the Champ affiliates advisory board in Australia since 2000;_ Ian Macfarlane, a former governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia;_ Ian Buchanan, a former Asia Pacific chairman of Booz Allen Hamilton; and Ferris.

‘While much of the private equity industry in Asia has been focused on deploying financial capital into Australia, many if not most Australian companies are looking to expand offshore, in search of greater market opportunity or lower cost structures,’ Childres says.

‘We view one of our key roles at Champ as assisting Australian companies in driving growth and implementing transformational strategic change. The Asia office will give us an additional way to assist our investee companies, and create value for our investors.’

He says he is realistic about the challenges of managing a private equity investment programme in Asia. ‘Having led a variety of M&A and direct investment transactions in south-east Asia during the 1990s, and having witnessed the impact of the Asian economic crisis first hand, I am keenly aware of the risk inherent in investing in Asia,’ he adds. ‘On the other hand, the scope of opportunity is enormous for Australian companies as well as financial investors who are willing to invest the time to understand the market.’

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