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Private equity firms build African war chest amid commodity rout


jobs-and-equity-v3Private-equity companies amassed a $4.3 billion war chest for investment opportunities in Africa last year as the global commodity rout and weakening local currencies cut prices of potential target companies.

The fundraising was the highest since at least 2010 and compares with $1.9 billion in 2014, according to the London-based African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association.

The industry group represents investors such as Dubai-based Abraaj Group Ltd., which raised $990 million in its Africa Fund III, and London-based Helios Investment Partners LLP with $1.1 billion in its Investors III Fund.

As commodity prices collapsed around the world over the past year, the South African rand tumbled 28 percent against the dollar, the Zambian kwacha is down 40 percent and the Mozambican metical lost 34 per cent.

Nigeria is under increasing pressure to devalue the naira, with forward currency markets predicting it will weaken by 20 per cent over the next three months.

“We’re trying to look for companies that benefit from a weaker currency, that are capable of exporting,” said Shaun Zagnoev, a partner Ethos Private Equity Ltd. in Cape Town. The company raised $800 million for its latest Fund VI. “During periods of uncertainty there’s often increased deal opportunity.”

Ethos sold companies acquired by its first four funds and is in the process of exiting the fifth, according to spokeswoman Chelsea Wilkinson. Fund V’s projected net internal rate of return, a measure of the profitability of its deals, will be 18 per cent to 20 per cent, the company said last month.

Lower Valuations

Carlyle Group LP, the world’s second-largest manager of investment alternatives to stocks and bonds, is targeting banking, consumer goods, manufacturing and back-office automation services in Africa, according to Marlon Chigwende, manager of the New York-based company’s $698 million African fund.

“Valuations are lower and getting lower over time,” Chigwende said by e-mail. “This is presenting interesting opportunities over the medium-term, as we see sound businesses attracting softer valuations. Liquidity is also becoming an issue in many economies, which also opens up opportunities for private equity investors.”

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