Leopard in Cambodia

The Hong Kong firm has held an initial closing on a $100 million Cambodia fund.

Leopard Cambodia Fund, a new vehicle being raised by Hong Kongbased Leopard Capital, has held a first close on a planned $100 million (€65 million) fund to invest in Cambodian companies and real estate. The size of the closing was not revealed.

The fund will have a lifespan of 10 years and has received capital commitments from investors in Europe, Asia and the US. On the buyout side, it will focus on financial services, retailing, construction materials and agribusiness. On the real estate side, it will focus on tourism and property development.

Leopard Capital Asia was founded last year by Douglas Clayton. It is led today by Kenneth Stevens and Stephen Simmons, formerly with CLSA Securities in Thailand, and Thomas Hugger, former head of investments at LGT Investment Management.

The fund is one of the first private equity funds established to invest primarily in Cambodia, but it is unlikely to be the last. The country is increasingly attracting spillover attention from its neighbor Vietnam. VinaLand, a Vietnam-focused real estate fund, is another firm also starting to look at opportunities in Cambodia. Other private equity firms are also looking at the country, particularly in light of its oil and mineral resources.

The country's prime minister Hun Sen is pursuing a strategy to focus on these resources and reduce Cambodia's dependence on clothing exports and tourism for growth. Cambodia has recently opened its first stock exchange, and has seen rapid economic growth over the past few years, in part due to a relatively stable political environment and an improving legal framework. Cambodia is also a significant exporter of soft commodities and food products and holds the potential to being an attractive tourist destination because of its climate.

The country has also seen significant price increases in real estate values recently as a surge in land speculation has resulted in the sale of 45 percent of the country's landmass, according to a recent report in Britain's the Guardian newspaper.

Leopard, which has a representative office in Phnom Penh, has several exit strategies envisioned, including public listings on Cambodia's upcoming stock exchange or on other Asian exchanges and private sales to strategic investors, investment partners or other funds. The firm says the fund will often co-invest with major international and/or local business groups, and will typically hold majority or significant minority positions.

Leopard Capital focuses exclusively on emerging markets. The team consists of 12 senior professionals who have previous experience in off the beaten-track investment destinations. The firm's other funds include Leopard Bangladesh, Leopard Vietnam and Leopard India. Leopard also has plans to target Laos, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia. It even says it is ready to invest in Pakistan, Burma and North Korea, subject to political changes.

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Invesco pro moves to ADIA
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