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PE fund Apax to step up India play with new team


By- George Smith Alexander, Reghu Balakrishnan

Mumbai: Apax Partners, the London-based private equity major that has invested nearly $3.5 billion in India in about two decades, plans to quicken the pace of its local investments after having harnessed the right talent and built a focused team that will scout buyout opportunities in the world’s fastest-expanding major economy. The firm is spending time on multiple deals at different stages across sectors.

“All the live deals that are out there, and several of those that we are chasing are across pharma, consumer and consumer derivative spaces. And there are multiple deals in tech services that are expected to get launched, which we are spending time on,” Rohan Haldea, partner in the tech team at Apax, told ET. Haldea also oversees India investments from a global standpoint at the firm.The Apax strategy is more pivoted toward control deals, given its focus on being able to have a seat on the table to drive changes. It is, however, open to partnering with quality founders and management teams in minority settings “where there’s a meeting of minds,” Haldea said.

Agencies

Unlike other large global firms active in India in the past year, Apax had gone slow. The firm made its last investment in India in May 2023 when it committed about $450 million to acquire a significant minority stake in IBS Software.Apax has seen management change in the past year with Shashank Singh, partner & head of India office from 2013, quitting the firm in July last year. Anurag Sud, who joined the firm in 2022 from Baring Private Equity Asia (part of EQT), now leads and manages day-to-day operations in India. The firm also appointed Leo Puri as an advisor to Apax and chairman of Apax India in March. “I think we’ve now got the infrastructure and the team that we believe can deploy capital. And we can start doing deals again pretty quickly and we’ve got a pretty big pipeline,” Haldea said. “I would say actually the office is busier than it’s ever been, and I expect that to continue.”In India, Apax investments include Azentio Software, Infogain, Global Logic, Zensar, IBS Software, and Fractal Analytics, Healthium, and Apollo Hospitals.Earlier this month, Apax sold 99.8% in the largest domestic sutures maker Healthium Medtech to KKR in one of the largest transactions in the healthcare sector in India. KKR acquired Healthium at a valuation of ‘7,000 crore, about 20 times of FY25 EBITDA.

“Obviously, KKR was a prevailing bidder but there were lots of other PEs that looked at it as well and saw the attraction of it. I think the reason people were attracted to it was because over the last 5 years, one has actually done quite a big transformation journey,” said Anurag Sud, MD, head of India, Apax.

Even as Apax refuses to speak about the returns it has made from the Healthium investment, Haldea said it has made very good returns from its Indian commitments.

“Starting with Apollo Hospital and then iGate and Global Logic and Healthium now, it has been a string of investments that have done really well for us. So, I do think that from a market perspective it remains super attractive to us,” he added.

Apax does not have country-wise allocation, but deploys about 7-10% of the global fund in India. In March, it closed its 11th global buyout fund (Apax XI) with commitments of over $12 billion. It also raised a digital fund of $1.95 billion and a global impact fund of $877 million last year, which will invest in India along with the buyout fund.

Broad Investment Themes
“On the digital side, we are looking to back businesses – both minority and control – with a very flexible mandate on backing businesses growth, hypergrowth and helping companies on the digitization journey. Thematics like software, classifieds, online marketplaces, digital brands are areas that are interesting. We do see the valuation environment is more attractive now with the digital fund spending a lot of time on the ground in India,” said Sud.



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