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US private equity firm snaps up KKR veteran for Southeast Asia

TPG strengthens Singapore team as more asset managers see region as attractive

NEW YORK -- U.S. private equity giant TPG has hired away a veteran deal-maker from KKR to cover Southeast Asia as funding and investment activity in the region picks up and competition intensifies.

David Tan joins TPG in Singapore as a managing director in a move announced Monday. He spent more than a decade at KKR, including its Hong Kong and Singapore offices. TPG boasts over $108 billion in assets under management.

"I am delighted to join the firm at an important time when the Southeast Asia private equity market is becoming increasingly attractive," Tan said in a statement.

The Wharton graduate was among the founding members of KKR's Singapore office when it was first established in 2012, having played a key part in KKR's investments in Vietnamese food and beverage company Masan Consumer and Singapore's Unisteel from his time in Hong Kong. He was later involved in deals including KKR's $1 billion-plus investment in Singaporean logistics company Goodpack, as well as its backing of Mandala Energy, a Southeast Asia-focused oil and gas company.

Tan's move to TPG comes as private equity firms see increasing opportunity for investment in Southeast Asia, one of the fastest-growing regions in the world.

For a second straight year, Southeast Asia ranked as the most attractive market for investment in the next 12 months, ahead of China and India, a survey this year by the Emerging Market Private Equity Association shows.

According to a November report by consultancy Bain & Co., private equity deal value in the region rose 75% to $15 billion in 2017 from the year before, breaking out of a decadelong phase of flat growth.

The region's tipping point took longer to reach than for China and India, but "years of solid economic growth, government support for start-ups, and perseverance by private equity funds created the conditions for a rapid transition to the next phase of growth," the report said.

"Growth is here to stay, but so is competition," it said.

As Southeast Asia emerges as a new hub for innovation and entrepreneurship, venture capital activity has also picked up. Total venture capital investment in the region's tech companies hit $3.4 billion in the first half, up more than 300% from the same period in 2018, in Refinitiv data cited by the Financial Times.

Meanwhile, there is a growing abundance of dry powder to deploy in the region. TPG closed out its seventh Asia-focused private equity fund at more than $4.6 billion earlier this year, exceeding its fundraising target. KKR plans to raise new capital in the next six to 18 months for its Asia private equity fund, one of the firm's three largest, co-President and co-Chief Operating Officer Scott Nuttall said on an earnings call last month.

Other private equity firms to have closed Asia-focused funds in past 12 months include Boston-based Bain Capital and China's Hillhouse Capital, whose $10.6 billion Asia fund remains the biggest private equity investment vehicle in the region.

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