Around the time of Confucius 2,500 years ago, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote, "Nothing is permanent except change." It's a perfect quick summary of the private equity industry in China. In its short 20 year history, PE in China has undergone continuous transformation: from dollars to Renminbi; from a focus on technology companies to a preference for traditional industries; from overseas IPO exits to domestic listings; from a minor financing channel to a main artery of capital to profitable private companies competing in the most dynamic and fast-growing major market in the world.
Where is private equity in China headed? Can future performance match the phenomenal returns of recent years? Where in China are great entrepreneurial opportunities and companies emerging? These are some of the questions we've sought to answer in China First Capital's latest English-language research report, titled "Private Equity in China, Positive Trends and Growing Challenges".
You can download a copy by clicking: Download "Private Equity in China, 2012 - 2013".
Our view is that 2012 will be a year of increasingly fast realignment in the PE industry. With the US capital markets effectively closed to most Chinese companies, and Hong Kong Stock Exchange ever less welcoming and attractive, the primary exit paths for China PE deals are domestic IPO and M&A. Both routes are challenging. At the same time, there are too many dollar-based investors chasing too few quality larger deals in China.
"Adapt or die" describes both the Darwinian process of natural selection as well as the most effective business strategy for PE investing in China.
I've been working with entrepreneurs for most of my 30 year business career. It's the joy and purpose of my life. Good entrepreneurs profit from change and uncertainty. Investors less so, if at all. This may be the biggest misalignment of all in Chinese PE. The entrepreneurial mindset is comfortable with constant change, with the destruction and opportunity created by market innovation. In my view, the PE firms most likely to succeed in China are those led by professionals with this same entrepreneurial mindset.