CLSA Capital Partners announced the closing of its third domestic consumption fund Aria Investment Partners III, L.P. with $330 million exceeding the original $250û300 million announced. The success of the fundraising demonstrates both the continuing vibrant market for private equity fund raising in the Asia-Pacific region and the successful track record of investing and exiting which CLSA Capital Partners has demonstrated with earlier funds.

Josephine Price, deputy CEO and managing director, Aria Investment Partners comments: ôThe successful closing of Aria III is a testament to investor confidence in our investment approach. Over the past few years we have invested in well managed, high growth companies providing capital and a lot of value add. We are looking forward to investing Aria III in more market leading companies from Korea across to India.ö

Private equity has provided CLSA with an alternative revenue stream which allows it to leverage its strengths but does not compete with its established broking practice in the region. The diversification has proven timely given the immense interest private equity is witnessing in Asia. Since 2000 CLSA has grown private equity into a lucrative business; in March 2006 it was estimated CLSA had $1.4 billion invested in private equity funds compared to $250 million just a couple of years ago.

CLSA manages four funds focused on distinct and defined themes: the Aria series of funds which are dedicated to growth capital for companies exposed to Asian domestic demand; Fudo Capital ($430 million) investing in Asian property of which approximately half is earmarked for Japan; CLSA Sunrise Capital ($325 million) investing in growth and mid-market buyout opportunities and MezzAsia Capital ($200 million) providing mezzanine debt financing for Asian buyouts.

Price has commented in the past that AsiaÆs emerging tigers China and India offer tremendous opportunities for private equity investments in consumer sectors. Only a few weeks ago CLSA Capital Partners exited an investment in FU JI Food and Catering Services Holdings made in early 2004 from its $100 million Aria Fund II, its first successful exit in China in 2006. It is said to have brought in five times the original investment. In 2004 CLSA also invested $10 million in VLCC, a chain of sliming clinics cum spas in India. Then in September, 2005 CLSA invested Rs637.5 million ($14.5 million) for a 14.2% stake in Apar Industries, an India based producer of specialty oils, aluminium conductors and polymers.

Dealogic recently estimated that in 2006 private equity investors have committed $5.12 billion in Asia ex-Japan compared with $7.99 billion for calendar 2005. The challenge for CLSA and others in this competitive environment is to identify and close deals which meet their investment parameters while providing healthy returns.