Asian private equity firm Unitas Capital -- previously known as CCMP Capital Asia -- has hired Lian Xiaolu from BNP Paribas to source deals in China.
Based in Shanghai, Lian assumed his new role as a managing director for Unitas last week. He joins four other people based in Shanghai and three others based in Hong Kong who are responsible for sourcing deals in China. He reports to Unitas's partner in Shanghai, Kei Chua.
Lian's main responsibility is sourcing deals in China, similar to what he was doing in BNP Paribas. At BNP Paribas, he worked on origination and sourcing deals, and worked to keep relationships with the government and clients. The difference now is that he will be focused on the buy-side with Unitas.
Lian's appointment is in line with Unitas's efforts to expand its on-the-ground presence in China, a market that is very much in focus for the firm. Most of Unitas's $1.2 billion Asia Opportunity Fund III, which was closed in December last year, is expected to be invested in China. That fund is Unitas's third buyout fund raised under the former company name of CCMP Capital Asia since 1999. The commitment of institutional investors to the latest fund reflects the growing appetite for private equity investments among investors still heavy with cash and looking for opportunities in this region. For many investors who have been burned by investments in equities, fixed income and hedge funds, the focus is also increasingly turning to private equity.
"China is a very important market for Unitas," says Lian. "Even if China's economy is expected to weaken, an expected growth of 8% still represents many opportunities to invest in companies that will be looking for capital to grow."
Lian expects to look for investments mainly in the general industries, manufacturing, as well as the consumer and retail sectors. He notes that current private equity valuations in China are more reasonable now compared to around the same time last year.
Andrew Liu, Hong Kong-based managing partner and CEO at Unitas, is confident that Lian's experience in senior management positions in both the state and private sectors as well as his relationships with large Chinese companies will help strengthen the firm's deal sourcing capabilities in China.
Prior to joining Unitas, Lian spent 11 years at BNP Paribas, most recently as a managing director and chief representative of the bank's Shanghai office. While at BNP Paribas, he was involved in a number of key initial public offerings, including Asia Cement, Want Want, Sunny Optical, and Haitian.
Before BNP Paribas, Lian spent 16 years at the Shanghai Petrochemical Company, where he held a number of management positions, including deputy director of the secretary office of the board of directors and deputy director of the strategic planning department. He was also part of the team that took Shanghai Petrochemical public, in one of the first public listings of a Chinese company.
Unitas is one of the largest dedicated regional private equity firms in Asia, with $4 billion in capital commitments under management. Founded in 1999, the firm has local connections throughout the region, including Australia, Greater China, Korea, and Singapore. Apart from Shanghai and Hong Kong, Unitas has offices in Melbourne and Seoul. Specialising in the consumer and retail as well as the industrial manufacturing and services sectors, Unitas has led some of the largest leveraged buyouts in Asia, including Mando Corporation, Haitai Confectionery and Buy The Way in Korea, Yellow Pages in Singapore, and Waco and Repco in Australia.