‘Brazil is Not For Beginners’ Says Warburg Pincus’ Chip Kaye

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(Wall Street Journal) It’s been a tough year for Brazil.

A crushing loss in the World Cup. Roiling markets and hits to its currency ahead of the upcoming presidential election. Growth rates that are a mere fraction of what they once were. Waning enthusiasm from institutional investors.

Despite the grim macro (and sporting) picture, private equity firms seeking investment there remain undeterred.

“When you invest in emerging markets, you’ve got to recognize the inherent cyclicality,” said Warburg Pincus Co-Chief Executive Charles “Chip” Kaye during a keynote address at the Latin American Private Equity & Venture Capital Association Summit and Investor Roundtable in New York Wednesday.

“While we think about the macro context of how we’re investing, we don’t invest top down, we invest bottom up,” he said. “I think you can get lost sometimes speculating on the nature of macro economic developments.”

Quoting his colleague Alain Belda, the former Alcoa CEO who now runs Warburg’s Latin America business, Mr. Kaye described Brazil as “not for beginners,” given the presence of a strong local private equity community and the desire of large global private equity firms to have a presence there.

Indeed, Brazil continues to capture the lion’s share of private equity investment and fundraising in Latin America. Nearly 70% of the $8.9 billion invested in Latin America in 2013 went to Brazil. The country also captured 43% of the $5.5 billion raised to invest in the region, according to data from LAVCA.

Under the parameters of its fund, Warburg has the flexibility to invest around the world, in a variety of different structures, from venture capital style plays to growth equity investments to traditional buyouts. Mr. Kaye said that roughly half of the firm’s $11.2 billion fund, which closed in May 2013, had already been called down for deals and around two-thirds of it was already committed to deals.

Mr. Kaye said the firm’s four investments in Brazil have been broadly in the $100 million to $200 million range, somewhat smaller than deals in India and China where deals have been in the $300 million to $500 million range.

The “emerging consumer theme” is what drives much of the firm’s investments across developing markets.

“Whether that’s consumer retail, financial services, healthcare, it’s expressed in a lot of ways,” he said.

In Brazil that has translated into investments in a commercial bank, Banco Indusval & Partners, fashion brand Dudalina SA, hydro power and wind project developer Omega Energia Renovavel SA and Pet Center Comércio e Participações SA, a retailer of pet food, accessories and services.

The firm’s historical focus on energy is prompting it to look closely at other countries within Latin America. Mr. Kaye said the firm was eyeing a potential deal in Colombia to shore up infrastructure for transporting oil.

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