“In the last couple of quarters, PE investments have picked up and 2013 will prove to be a good vintage year,” said Shashank Singh, partner and head of India at Apax Partners. Limited partners (investors in PE funds) measure returns by way of 'vintage years'. 2006-07 was a very poor vintage year since the valuations of investor firms were very high.
On the other hand, 2009 was a good year because of low-entry valuations.
The focus of veteran PE firms currently is largely on exits rather than investments. “A tremendous amount of capital has been delivered already in the country but not much performance (in terms of exits) has been demonstrated yet. Hopefully, the IPO market will revive and aid exits for PE firms. We remain believers in the long-term story of India but near-term challenges remain,” said Gopal Jain, founder and MD, Gaja Capital Partners.
“Compared to 2005, we are seeing a growth in deal volumes but the process of correction is also happening and will continue till exits in India really take off,” he added.
PE firms invested $7.6 billion across 415 deals in 2012 and $9.6 billion across 446 deals in 2011, according to Ernst & Young's 2012 annual round-up report.
“A significant amount of capital will be invested in India this year but you cannot compare today's PE deal volumes to 2007's investment flow since the Indian market's size has grown and it cannot absorb that amount of capital. Also, on a relative basis, I see a healthy correction happening in the PE industry in 2013,” said Jain.
Some of the problems that haunted PE investments in the country will continue well into 2013 as well.
“In 2012, sellers often stuck to their high valuation benchmarking the previous year and buyers wanted to pay the value based on the increased risk in the company. 2013, though positive, will see similar situation arising,” Singh said. There would be action in strategic buyouts too, with many inbound deals expected.
“Many Japanese corporate firms are strong contenders to participate in manufacturing, IT and are interested in these sectors in India along with the local players,” said Archana Hingorani, chief executive officer and executive director, IL&FS Investment Managers. Japanese firm Nippon Life Insurance picked up substantial stake in Reliance Capital Asset Management in June this year. In September, US-based Invesco bought 49% stake in Religare Asset Management. “2013 will see more controlled transactions or buyouts as compared to earlier,” said Singh.
Financial services, healthcare and consumer related services remain the top pick for investments in 2013, whereas infrastructure still seems to look like a far-off investment haven.
“The sectors ripe for exits are industrials, consumer and infrastructure related services. The core infrastructure sector especially ports is however, still challenged for the first six weeks because of government inaction, high debt levels and unclear policy,” said Sanjeev Krishnan, leader for PE practice at PwC.
“The earlier sunrise sectors like clean technology have lost their charm this time,” said Mahendra Swarup, president at PE/VC trade body Indian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association.
“Digital-oriented and consumer-related space apart from healthcare and food and agriculture looks positive,” he added. “Sectors like financial services, technology, retail and consumer goods will attract more investments,” Singh said.