Unitas Capital Closes Tokyo Office

HONG KONG/TOKYO (Reuters) – Asia-focused private equity firm Unitas Capital, formerly known as CCMP Capital Asia, said on Friday that it has closed its Tokyo office, to focus on deal opportunities in the rest of the region.

The closure of its Tokyo office became effective on Tuesday, a spokeswoman said.

CCMP was the private equity group that spun out of Wall Street bank JPMorgan (JPM.N) in 2006.

The closure of Unitas’ Tokyo office comes in the wake of many of its rivals in the region having already shut down their Asia branches to save costs in the snowballing financial crisis.

For example, Blackstone Group’s (BX.N) $25 billion credit hedge fund, GSO Capital Partners LP, shut its Asia investment desk after failing to find attractive investments in the region, industry sources told Reuters earlier this year.

“We have concluded that it makes better sense to concentrate our resources on the core markets of Greater China, Korea and Australia and New Zealand, where we see much better deal flow,” said Andrew Liu, chief executive of Unitas, in an emailed statement.

The greater China region often refers to mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“Japan remains a market in which we would like to invest but we will do so from our other regional offices,” Liu said.

Despite closure of its Tokyo office, Unitas has been adding staff in Australia and expects to make further appointments in Shanghai, Liu added.

A banker briefed on the situation told Reuters that Unitas will continue to look at Japan from its Hong Kong office.

The banker declined to be identified as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

More hedge funds and private equity firms are likely to trim or shut their Asian operations as the widening financial crisis forces a retreat back to their home markets in the West, industry experts told the Reuters Private Equity and Hedge Funds Summit in Hong Kong last month.

In December, Unitas raised $1.2 billion for its third buyout fund, Asia Opportunity Fund III L.P., pulling the money together at a time when lending is tight, volatility high and valuations falling. [ID:nHKG207066]

“As we get further into 2009, it is clear that the timing of the close of our $1.2 billion Asia Opportunity Fund III last year was about as optimal as we could have hoped for,” said Liu in the statement.

“There are a number of attractive opportunities in the region arising from the financial crisis,” he added.

By George Chen and Wakako Sato
(Additional reporting by Junko Fujita in Tokyo, Editing by Jacqueline Wong)