A version of this article was first published on FinanceAsia.
Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), will commit up to $1.5 billion to a new fund set up by media magnate James Murdoch and former Star India chief executive, Uday Shankar.
Together as co-chairs, the pair will run the new venture known as Bodhi Tree, an investment platform that will pursue media and consumer technology opportunities in Southeast Asia and India.
QIA declined to comment for this article but its chief executive Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al-Mahmoud said in an official statement that "QIA is investing in the technology and media space and India is a key market for us".
The sovereign wealth fund does not reveal its asset allocation details but lists on its website technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) and the retail and consumer as sectors it invests in.
In January, it participated in a $700 million funding round for India-based Swiggy, an on-demand food delivery platform.
“[India] is a great catch-up story in terms of expected future GDP growth. It’s going to be the most populous country in the world and most funds view it as an historic 'underweight' in their portfolio. Increased disposable income will underpin the outlook for consumer spending,” Gary Smith, managing director of think-tank, Sovereign Focus, told FinanceAsia.
Furthermore, it allows investors like QIA to diversify away from China, he said. “The Alibaba story and on-going global political tensions have lessened the appeal of China, and improved the relative appeal of India,” he explained.
According to the data platform Global SWF, QIA is the world’s 15th largest sovereign fund, with assets under management of $445 billion and a 41% allocation to alternative assets.
“QIA has been beefing up its investment teams across most industries and especially its Asian team in both Doha and Singapore. We expect this to bump its activity in Southeast Asia and Far East Asia significantly in the next few months or years,” he added.
Bodhi Tree is not Murdoch and Shankar's first investment venture together. Last year, they teamed up to list Seven Islands, a $300 million special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) on the Nasdaq. The blank cheque company seeks to acquire a target in “media, entertainment, consumer technology, healthcare, and education industries in Southeast and South Asia, with a particular focus on India,” according to SEC filings.
Murdoch, the son of News Corporation billionaire founder, Robert Murdoch, founded investment holding company Lupa in 2019. He earlier served as chief executive of 21st Century Fox from 2015 to 2019, and as the company’s co-chief operating officer, chairman and chief executive for Europe and Asia. In 2020, he resigned from the board of News Corp citing disagreements over editorial content.
Shankar served as president of 21st Century Fox for Asia between 2017 and 2018. He was appointed as president of Walt Disney Asia Pacific when the company acquired 21st Century Fox in 2018. He stepped down in 2020 to pursue an entrepreneurial career.