Lender of the year

1. KKR
2. Ares SSG
3. Metrics Credit Partners

Aussie rules: Lender of the Year KKR led a $356 million senior unitranche financing in Australia

Over the past 18 months, KKR has invested or committed more than $1 billion of capital to new private credit deals across Asia-Pacific. These include, in June 2020, a $650 million subordinated financing for a leading South-East Asian business and, later last year, a A$360 million ($280 million; €231 million) unitranche financing for an Australian healthcare business.

“We see a big opportunity in Asia private lending, and are structuring credit deals with uniquely attractive risk-adjusted returns, many times with companies we have known locally for a long time,” Brian Dillard, KKR’s head of Asia Credit, told Private Debt Investor.

Distressed debt investor of the year

1. Ares SSG
2. Värde Partners
3. International Finance Corporation

Founded in 2009 and having become one of Asia-Pacific’s leading special situations and credit investors, with more than $6 billion in AUM, SSG Capital Management is now under the Ares umbrella and known as Ares SSG.

With more than 70 investment professionals, SSG sources deals across India, China, Indonesia, Thailand and other countries in the region from its Hong Kong base. The Los Angeles-based heavyweight will give SSG further impetus to expand its activities throughout the region.

Real estate debt fund manager of the year

1. Huatai Financial Holdings
2. Ares SSG
3. Metrics Credit Partners

By November 2020, Huatai had invested $500 million during the year across nine deals – all of them real estate-related. Among these deals was a $320 million structured acquisition financing for the pre-IPO of a real estate management business. Over the past six years, it has deployed more than $1.4 billion of risk capital, with real estate accounting for 65 percent of that total.

Ryan Chung, head of structured finance and principal investment at Huatai International, says the return rates from real estate-backed lending are predictable because deals have underlying assets with good valuation transparency and cashflow visibility. “The deal leverage is typically not overly aggressive – less than a 75 percent loan-to-value ratio,” he told Private Debt Investor.

Infrastructure debt manager of the year

1. Allianz Global Investors
2. AMP Capital
3. ADM Capital

Allianz Global Investors has been expanding its presence in Asia-
Pacific credit, deploying more than $300 million in the region since it first started investing there in late 2018. The firm, which manages the parent group’s proprietary capital, has been targeting sectors including telecoms and infrastructure across Australia, India, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam.

The Asian credit team invests in companies that generate healthy cashflows and sectors that reflect long-term secular trends. “We are not looking at distressed debt and special situations investing,” Sumit Bhandari, managing director and lead portfolio manager at AllianzGI’s Asia private credit team, told Private Debt Investor.

Deal of the Year

1. Huatai Financial Holdings
2. Ares Management
3. Partners Group

The Hong Kong-based subsidiary of Huatai Securities invested $320 million in a combination of quasi-equity and structured debt to finance the acquisition of a pre-IPO minority equity stake in a prominent property management company wholly owned by China’s largest property developer; the total acquisition consideration was $510 million. The deal was done in just two weeks from inception to financial close. Huatai’s structured finance and principal investment team, established in 2014, works with corporates and private equity sponsors targeting the mid-market across Asia-Pacific.

Fundraising of the year

1. PAG
2. ADM Capital
3. Tor Investment Management

The Asia-focused alternative investment firm held a final close in June 2020 on its PAG Loan Fund IV, hitting the hard-cap of $1.5 billion. The Hong Kong-based firm, which provides tailored financing solutions to corporates across the Asia-Pacific region, boasts the likes of San Francisco Employees Retirement System and Florida Retirement System Trust Fund among its investor roster.

Its financing types include asset-backed loans, mezzanine loans and mortgages, with terms range from three months to seven years, according to the firm’s disclosures.

Both PAG Asia Loan Fund IV and Special Situations Fund III, which held a final close at $1 billion in November 2019, fall under PAG’s Absolute Returns strategies and are overseen by Chris Gradel, PAG’s chief investment officer and co-founder.

Law firm of the year

1. Kirkland & Ellis
2. Dechert
3. Ashurst

Bright spot: Kirkland & Ellis advised on the acquisition of a leading Chinese manufacturer of LED lighting

Kirkland & Ellis advised on a host of fundraising mandates in 2020 including Dignari Capital Partners on its $626 million DCP China Credit Fund II and OCP Asia on the formation and fundraising for OCP Asia Fund IV, a $200 million direct lending fund.

Deals included advising KKR on the leveraged financing for the acquisition of China’s NVC Lighting, under which KKR took a 70 percent stake in one of China’s leading manufacturers of LED lighting.

Placement agent of the year

1. Evercore Private Funds Group
2. Mercury Capital Advisors
3. Campbell Lutyens

Evercore Private Funds Group is currently mandated on a pan-Asian Direct Lending Fund, which has yet to reach a final close.

It has AUM in Asian direct lending of $2.6 billion and is currently raising its fourth fund. To date, a significant amount of capital has been raised and it is looking to hold a final close at the hard-cap of $800 million in Q1 2021.

Investor of the year

1. International Finance Corporation
2. Cathay Life Insurance
3. Shinhan Alternative Investment Management

Developing markets: IFC is stimulating secondary sales of NPLs

The World Bank Group member implemented a renewed push into distressed investing across Asia-Pacific through its Distressed Asset Recovery Platform in 2020.

The platform is sized at around $7.4 billion, including $4.8 billion from IFC’s co-investors. DARP has provided backing for managers including ADM Capital, Clearwater Capital and Altus Capital.

According to Rosy Khanna, IFC’s financial institutions group industry director for Asia-Pacific, the DARP platform has enabled banks to offload more than $33 billion of non-performng loans since its inception in 2007.

DARP began in Latin America and has expanded to Eastern Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. “DARP also aims to stimulate the development of secondary NPL markets by mobilising capital from co-investors for the acquisition and resolution of distressed assets,” she told Private Debt Investor.