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Leopard Capital nixes plan for second investment fund

Traffic passes in front of Phnom Penh’s Kingdom Breweries office.
Traffic passes in front of Phnom Penh’s Kingdom Breweries office. Vireak Mai

Leopard Capital nixes plan for second investment fund

Private equity firm Leopard Capital will not be looking to raise a second round of funding after its initial $34 million Cambodia-focused fund expired in April, its chief executive said yesterday. Douglas Clayton, whose private equity firm was the first to enter Cambodia’s frontier market in 2008, said that the current investment climate was not conducive to establishing a new investment fund.

“We have experimented with the idea of a second fund, but we decided that right now is not the opportune time,” he said. Leopard Capital, which made 14 investments through its $34 million Cambodia Fund, still has holdings in Acleda Bank, Kingdom Breweries, a plot of land in Siem Reap and the publicly listed Lao company EDL-Generation, according to Clayton.

“We are still trying to liquidate our current assets,” he said. “We have exhausted our pool of investors. There are not enough investors interested in Cambodia and our own investors have already been exposed to risk.”

Leopard Capital has faced a share of difficulties. The firm has struggled to sell its majority stake in Kingdom Breweries since 2014, and got bogged down in an ugly legal battle over its investment into Nautisco Seafood Manufacturing.

Clayton said that the fund, due to a lack of viable commercial opportunities, was forced to operate on a risky venture capital model, “which is a tough business”.

“In Cambodia we found it very hard to screen companies properly when our investors were pressuring to invest,” he said. “So we went with more flexibility into some companies that hadn’t reached profitability, and some never did.”

The lack of exit options in Cambodia has been another thorn for the company to receive a return on investment, he added.

“The exit environment hasn’t been superb given that Cambodia is not a mainstream investment destination,” he said. “I don’t think any of the private equity firms have found that the exit environment has been up to expected standards.”

Clayton said the company’s successful exits were those in which it facilitated buybacks from the company it had invested into, rather than the more preferred option of finding a third-party buyer.

A buyback is “usually the easiest type of exit, but it does not lead to the spectacular returns our investors hoped for when investing in an emerging market”, he said.

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