Ascent Starts Myanmar Private Equity Firm Backed by Temasek, ADB

(Bloomberg) -- Singapore’s Ascent Capital Partners Pte has launched a Myanmar-focused private equity fund backed by Temasek Holdings Pte and the Asian Development Bank.

Ascent Myanmar Growth Fund I has raised more than $50 million and is looking to add one or two more investors to reach $100 million in the coming months, Ascent co-founder Lim Chong Chong said in an interview. The fund is seeking to make two investments of between $5 million and $20 million this year and about another eight by 2023, he said.

Myanmar is one of Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing economies with expansion forecast to increase to 7.1 percent in 2020 from 6.7 percent last year, World Bank estimates show. More than two-thirds of its 54 million population are under the age of 40, and so urbanization and a rapidly growing middle class are expected to fuel domestic consumption.

Ascent’s fund will look to buy stakes of around 30 percent in companies that are leaders in their industries and which require the capital and expertise to expand further domestically, Lim said. Interesting sectors include education, consumer, financial services and healthcare.

“We’re looking at businesses and sectors that can leverage Myanmar’s growth story,” Lim said. “Myanmar is at a very nascent stage of development so there’s a lot of upside in the next 10 to 20 years.”

Lim, who is based in Myanmar, previously worked at Temasek, Ernst & Young LLP and KPMG LLP. He founded Ascent with Pneh Tee Keong, formerly the chief executive officer of Maybank Private Equity.

ADB unveiled its $10 million investment earlier this month. Lim declined to disclose how much Ascent has raised from other backers, which include Singapore’s state investment firm and the Philippines’ JG Summit Holdings Inc. He said existing investors may be interested in co-investment opportunities if more than $20 million is required.

“We and our limited partners really believe that the potential of Myanmar is a long-term one,” he said.

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