After approaching some semi-serious hurdles in the US private equity firms are looking for fresh markets; on the top of their to-do list may be Russia. TPG, formerly Texas Pacific Group, was reported to be in early-stage talks to acquire a 50 percent stake in Russia's 7K-investholding, which is in control of one of the country's top supermarket chains Seventh Continent.
The initial purchase price estimated at $1.1-1.2 billion is tiny by Western standards but TPG has expressed the possibility of investing a further $5-7 billion into the supermarket chain over the next nine years if the deal goes through.
Private equity firms generally buy publicly traded companies, taking them private, restructure them and later spin-off as public entities for a handsome profit. TPG with more than $40 billion under management is the only foreign buyout firm operating in Russia, having opened its doors in Moscow this spring. Since then it has expressed an interest in seven or eight projects in Russia. The Seventh Continent deal is the first such project announced.
The deal could be a good opportunity to develop one of the least active areas of global finance in Russia, private equity. As the Financial Times reports:
Seventh Continent, or Sedmoi Kontinent, was one of Russia’s first supermarket chains, opening three stores in Moscow in 1994. By December it had 123 stores, after expansion into regions outside the capital, generating $288m of revenue in the first quarter of 2007.
Carlyle, the US firm, closed its Moscow office in 2005 and ditched plans for a $300m Russian fund. TPG sold off an investment it made in Russia’s PIT brewery, which was bought by Heineken in 2005.
The Russian investment market is dependent on insiders, such as Baring Vostok Capital Partners, which announced a $1bn fund in March for mid-sized investments. Alfa Capital Partners, Sputnik Group and Sun Group are also active.
The move also highlights the strong opportunities for profit in the Russian food retail industry. Yet plenty of competition still exists; X5 retail group, another Russian food retail conglomerate and owner of the Pyaterochka and Perekrostok supermarket chains, has announced plans to invest more than $10 billion dollars in its stores over the next 5-7 years.