Blackstone officially opens Singapore office

The New York-based firm has moved one of its partners to the island country in the hopes of making it a regional hub for Southeast Asia.

Stephen Schwarzman flew to Singapore this week for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Blackstone Group’s Singapore office, the firm’s first in Southeast Asia and 24th globally. The ceremony reflected a move by the firm to increase its visibility in the region.

The New York-based firm technically opened the Singapore office late last year, but did not station any partners there until August this year, when senior managing director Alan Miyasaki relocated to the city-state from the firm’s Tokyo office.

The Singapore office now houses approximately 30 staff and eight senior staff, including Miyasaki and two managing directors in real estate and private equity. Miyasaki added that another real estate principal that specializes in transactions, Prashant Kanodia, will also move down to Singapore from Hong Kong within the next two weeks.

The ceremony was attended by several Singaporean dignitaries, including the Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. “With the help of this new regional hub, we are in an exceptional position to continue to grow, perform, invest, and deliver on our commitments for the future,” Schwarzman, Blackstone’s chief executive, chairman and co-founder, said at the event.

Blackstone is one of the later firms to open an office in Southeast Asia, with its counterparts the Carlyle Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) and TPG opening offices last year or several years ago. To date, Blackstone has also not been as active in the region, with its exposure currently limited to its S$125 million (€73 million; $98 million) investment last year in StarHub Green, a suburban business park, from an open-ended fund managed by SEB Asset Management, the real estate subsidiary of Scandinavia’s SEB Group.

Miyasaki explained that Blackstone took its time breaking into Southeast Asia because the firm wanted to establish itself in the regions four largest markets: China, India, Japan and Australia first. Now that Blackstone has significantly invested in its target markets, the firm is ready to “work its way down,” and Southeast Asia is next on the list.

“Blackstone is spending more time evaluating investment opportunities in Southeast Asia and believes that it will be well positioned to do that from Singapore,” Miyasaki told PERE.

It is understood that Singapore has already become critical to Blackstone’s business in Asia, as the firm recently moved a large portion of its treasury function to that office. As of now, a portion of the firm's balance sheet capital will be managed through Singapore, the only office to do so outside of New York.

Blackstone already has a pipeline of deals in the region, but the firm is expected to remain in the “study and research phase” for some time, as the firm wants to understand the region better before committing capital to deals.

“That’s an advantage of a pan-Asia business:  Blackstone can explore the best possible avenues for investments by understanding all parts of the region,” he added.