Leopard Fund Prowls For Private Equity Deals In Cambodia

May 6 2008 | 8:32am ET

A Hong Kong-based private equity firm is raising a fund to invest in a country infamous for its genocidal Communist regime but now looking forward to the opening of its first stock exchange next year.

Leopard Capital has completed an initial closing of the Leopard Cambodia Fund, which has a target size of US$100 million and an expected lifespan of 10 years. The fund has won commitments from investors in Europe, the U.S. and Asia.

Leopard will invest in companies and real estate positioned to benefit from Cambodia’s rapid economic growth and integration into the global economy, according to the firm. It will focus in venture, expansion, and buy-out opportunities, primarily in the financial services, retailing, construction materials, agribusiness, tourism and property development sectors.

The firm said that Cambodia offers a strong opportunity for investment, supported by rapid economic growth, political and policy stability, and an improving legal framework. It also said the country holds the potential to become one of Asia’s top tourist destinations as well as a significant exporter of soft commodities and food products.

“A free market economy, Cambodia’s investment policies and incentives rank among the most favorable in Asia, and its exports are accepted ‘duty free’ by many developed countries,” Leopard explains.

The firm also said it will actively support the development of Cambodia’s stock exchange, which is slated to open late next year with assistance from the Korea Exchange.

Douglas Clayton, managing partner, said the launch of the first Cambodia-dedicated fund is another important milestone along the country’s troubled path to prosperity.

“Leopard Cambodia Fund will help create employment for Cambodians, broaden Cambodia’s economic base, and attract other international funds to invest here,” he said. “For investors, Cambodia offers a rare ‘safe haven’ from the global credit storm; the Cambodian economy is unleveraged and rising rapidly off a low base as confidence spreads.”

Leopard Asia was formed in 2007 by Clayton and is headed by Kenneth Stevens and Stephen Simmons, all of whom at CLSA Securities in Thailand, and Thomas Hugger, former head of investments at LGT Investment Management.

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