Singapore-based asset manager Equis Funds Group expects to continue expanding the headcounts of its management team and portfolio companies through a string of fresh hires this year.
David Russell, chief executive of the firm, told Infrastructure Investor that the total staff employed at both Equis’ management and portfolio company level has been bumped up from 315 to 340.
“This week alone we have hired two construction engineers, one business chief executive, one business chief investment officer and one investment director.”
The 51 projected 2015 hires, still subject to re-evaluations, comprise 10 project development officer, 12 investment professionals, 15 construction procurement and management engineers, and 14 finance, legal compliance, HR and administration staff.
Russell declined to elaborate on the split between the staff to be hired by Equis and its portfolio companies but stressed the strong connection between the company’s self-supported team and members of the portfolio companies registered on separate entities’ payrolls, emphasising the strong hold it exerts on its Equis Controlled Platforms (ECPs).
“We go one step further when we identify a key sector such as solar in Japan, or Thailand, or the Philippines. We set up our own management team in those geographies to execute and manage those investments,” he said.
A law firm infrastructure Investor spoke to indicated that typically a manager employing 350+ staff has assets under management ranging between $8 and $10 billion, suggesting that the biggest part of the projected hires would likely be accounted for by the funds’ portfolio companies. However, the source said that the asset manager’s current team of 31 members was an impressive number, comparing it to an average range of 10 to 20 for the cited AUM.
The firm last February closed its latest fundraising effort, comprising $1 billion collected for Equis Asia Fund II (Fund II) as well as $400 million for two Equis Controlled Platforms (ECPs) operating under fund I (which reached final close at $647 million in December 2012) and $300 million for Equis Direct Investment Fund EDIF, a follow on fund of Fund I.
With its $2.7 billion of assets under management, the firm is now the largest independent energy and infrastructure private equity company in Asia.
As part of the deployment of Fund II, Equis has closed three investments which are collectively expected to account for up to 37 percent of Fund II’s committed capital.
The first of these allocations is a $100 million follow-on investment into Japan Solar, the $720 million fund jointly launched by Equis and, among others, Swiss-based private equity group Partners Group, to build new solar generation projects currently owned by Nippon Renewable Energy (NRE).
“Japan Solar is the platform we’ve invested the capital in, and it funds the projects but doesn’t have their legal ownership, for regulatory reasons,” Russell said.
“There’s about 30 people in our Japanese solar business only. We formally started committing capital to Japan out of the funds in the beginning 2014. From there, given that we had, through a business called Nippon Renewable Energy, a management team on the ground in Japan, we were able to very quickly build a significant position in the solar market,” he added.
A second allocation, of the same amount, has gone to InfraEdge, which manages power, water, telecommunications and general infrastructure for new township projects under construction in India.
Last but not least, $20 million will go to the expansion of Southeast Asian hydropower development platform ECP-Hyreq. While the platform currently manages a portfolio of Indian hydro generation projects, the expansion capital aims to make it one of the largest independent power producers in the broader region.