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KKR appoints Japan advisor * Pantheon hires three for Asia * Cinven hires in Hong Kong * Deshpande quits ICICI Venture * Morgan Stanley appoints infrastructure head * AIG hires in Japan and Hong Kong * Babcock & Brown chairman and CEO give in * Battery Ventures expands Israel team, to set shop in India * Olympus Capital sets up Indian team

KKR appoints Japan advisor
The global buyout firm has appointed Yoshiharu Fukuhara, a corporate veteran, as a senior advisor for its activities in Japan. Fukuhara has been the honorary chairman of Shiseido, a Japanese luxury cosmetics and fragrances manufacturer since 2001. The grandson of Shiseido's founder, he joined the company in 1953 and was appointed its president and chief executive officer in 1987, and chairman of its board in 1997. “In these challenging times for Japanese companies as they strive to broaden their business, including looking at further developing their global footprint, I look forward to partnering with KKR to help Japanese companies achieve these important goals,” Fukuhara said in a statement.

Foreign firms continue to find it difficult to make investments in Japan. The appointment of senior members of the domestic business fraternity such as Fukuhara is meant to enable firms to leverage the respect that these professionals command in Japan and the networks they bring with them. KKR's Asian offices are located in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing and Sydney.

Pantheon hires three for Asia
Global fund of funds manager Pantheon Ventures has expanded its Asian team with the hire of three professionals in Hong Kong. Alex Wilmerding has joined as a principal from Citi Private Bank in Boston, where he was a director. Prior to that, he was a partner at Boston Capital Ventures, a US venture capital firm. He has also held roles at Canadian shipping transport company Fednav in Shanghai, as well as Cathay Pacific, the airline group in Hong Kong and Jakarta.

Minjun Chung, who has joined Pantheon as an associate, was formerly a research analyst at consulting firm McKinsey. Leah Liu, formerly an investment banking analyst at Lazard Feres in New York, has joined the team as an analyst.

Pantheon opened its Hong Kong office in 1992 and launched its first Asian fund of funds in 1994. Since then, the range of investment opportunities has increased, and Asia is no longer a fringe in investors' portfolios, said Chris Meads, a partner at Pantheon's Hong Kong office. Pantheon is currently committing out of its fifth Asia-focused fund of funds, Meads told PEI Asia.

Cinven hires in Hong Kong
London-based private equity firm Cinven is expanding its Hong Kong team with the hire of JosephWan and Richard Cheung as partner and principal, respectively. Both will be based out of London until the Hong Kong office officially opens early next year. Wan is joining the firm from The Boston Consulting Group's Hong Kong office, where he has been a partner and managing director since 2001. Cheung, on the other hand, is joining the firm from consulting firm McKinsey's Hong Kong office, where he was a partner as well.

While Wan has consulting experience in consumer electronics retailing, construction materials and furniture retailing, snacks and beverages, cosmetics, airlines and the auto industry, Cheung possesses experience in gaming, manufacturing, and the retail and consumer sectors.

Deshpande quits ICICI Venture
In the second high profile departure from ICICI Venture in less than six months, senior director of investments Bala Deshpande has quit the firm, a company spokeswoman confirmed with sister publication PrivateEquityOnline.com. Deshpande is reportedly headed to New Enterprise Associates in India, according to a source. NEA makes mid- to late-stage investments in India. It also invests indirectly in the country through NEA-Indo US, a venture capital firm focused on technology and technology-enabled services. The venture firm could not be reached for comment.

Deshpande joined ICICI Venture in 2000. She identified investment opportunities in the retail, media, information technology, IT enabled services and telecom, and executed 10 exits. Earlier this year in April, Aluri Srinivasa Rao, a director of investments at ICICI Venture, quit the firm to head Morgan Stanley Private Equity's newly established Indian team.

 
Morgan Stanley appoints infrastructure head
Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners, which closed the $4 billion Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners Fund in May this year, has appointed Gautam Bhandari to build an infrastructure team focused on India, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. Bhandari, formerly at the bank's investment banking division, is based in Mumbai and will focus on infrastructure investments in the region.

He previously oversaw the bank's M&A advisory services to the engineering and construction, industrial services and alternative energy sectors in the emerging markets. His team will be investing out of the firm's $4 billion fund. When the fund closed, its remit was to invest 20 percent in Asia, with the rest split between investments in North America and Europe. The fund has already invested more than $1 billion.

AIG hires in Japan and Hong Kong
AIG Investments has appointed Koh Lye-Thiam in its Hong Kong office as a vice president for its Asian private equity fund group. The firm has also appointed Michael Chae as director of alternative investments in Japan. At AIG, Koh will be a part of AIG's global fund of funds team and will oversee its fund investments. He reports to Ada Tse, president and chief executive for AIG's Asia operations and head of the firm's Asian alternative investment activity. Koh was formerly the head of private equity at NTUC Income Insurance, a Singaporean insurance company. Prior to that, he was at TIF Ventures, where he managed a Singapore government-sponsored fund of funds programme. TIF is a wholly owned subsidiary of EDB Investments, which in turn is the investment arm of the Economic Development Board of Singapore.

Chae will be based in Tokyo and will report to Stewart Homler, managing director of alternative investments in Japan. Chae will play a role in the execution of AIG Investments' direct investment, private equity fund investment, private equity-related senior and mezzanine debt, and distressed securities activities. Prior to joining AIG, he was a director at Nikko Citi's fixed income group, before which he was a director with Deutsche Asset Management's Asia Pacific private equity group, focusing on direct investments and fund of funds investments. Chae has also held positions in Shinsei Bank's private equity group in Tokyo and Credit Suisse First Boston's private equity group in Hong Kong.

AIG Investments is the asset management arm of American International Group, the giant US insurer currently wrestling with difficulties relating to the credit crunch.

Babcock & Brown chairman and CEO give in
The troubled Australian infrastructure specialist's chairman Jim Babcock and chief executive Phil Green have resigned from their positions as the firm. Babcock has been replaced by current deputy chairman Elizabeth Nosworthy.

“We heard the market's desire for us to make governance and strategic changes to better reflect the nature, scale and breadth of Babcock & Brown today compared to the much smaller, highly entrepreneurial company that listed on the Australian Securities Exchange just four years ago, and the changes being announced today have been designed and adopted with this in mind,” Babcock, who co-founded the firm in 1977, said in a statement.

Green had been at the firm for 24 years and spent almost four years as managing director and chief executive was replaced by Michael Larkin, who was earlier the chief financial officer of Babcock & Brown. The publicly listed firm's shares have plummeted more than 90 percent in value over the past year. It currently manages 11 listed funds, five unlisted funds, and 2 private equity-style co-investment funds. The firm has said it plans to refocus on its core businesses of infrastructure, real estate and operating leasing, as well as evolving its activities into a more private equity-like asset management model.

Battery Ventures expands Israel team, to set shop in India
Technology-focused venture capital and private equity firm Battery Ventures is shifting general partner Scott Tobin and senior associate David Sokolic to its Herzilya office. The two will join Avi Domoshevizki and Ronit Korenwho are currently the firm's Israel executives. It has also promoted Ramneek Gupta to partner. Gupta will open the firm's India office in Mumbai later this year.

Tobin, who joined Battery in 1997, helped lead the firm's investments in wireless communication company Metro PCS and The London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange. Prior to joining Battery, Tobin worked at the investment banking division of First Albany. Sokolic joined the firm last year after serving as program manager at Microsoft.

Olympus Capital sets up Indian team
Olympus Capital, a pan-Asian mid-market investment firm, has reportedly set up an office in India, according to Indian daily Economic Times .Gaurav Malik, who has been based at the firm's Hong Kong office for the last six years, has moved to India and will be heading the firm's operations in the country, according to the report. Olympus Capital did not respond to requests for a comment by press time.

However, on the firm's website, Gaurav Malik is listed as the managing director of its India office in Gurgaon, which is in the Delhi NCR region. Olympus has so far had a representative office in the country, but now it is setting up an investment team of six. “India is emerging as a very important market for PE players like us. We are hopeful that the country will see a huge inflow of investments,” the paper quoted Malik as saying.