Changed for the better. Poverty is down.
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Exports are way up. Its biggest misfortune may be having to compete for capital, and for attention, with China. The indisputable conclusion: sound economic policies are easier in China to design and execute. India has English.
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China has Confucius. But, in two of these — pharmaceuticals and computer software — English is probably the main reason. China has tried to make more of a game of it, especially in computer software and services. But, China is now and will likely remain a bit player in these two large, global high-margin industries.
In China, the benefits are as much in kind as in cash. Companies owned or managed by ethnic Chinese from Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, "Taiwan and the US have been large corporate investors in China, with the capital matched by transfer of technologies and manufacturing know- how. This is an ever-renewing remittance, as money pours in each year to finance projects with solid long-term rates of return. Its impact is measurable as well in the outsized economic clout of Chinese immigrants in Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia. Free market capitalism and Confucianism. Anywhere in the world you find sustained economic success and rising prosperity, you will find at least one.
In China, they are entwined in a kind of ideal synthesis.
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Confucianism adds to these a reverence for education and practical problem-solving. It contains nothing transcendent, not much, if any, spiritual guidance for soul- searchers to make sense of their place in the cosmos.
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One vital adaptation over the last century, though, was to accept that women could, and should, play an active role outside the house, reaching the same educational level as men and joining the workforce in equal numbers. Here, India is woefully far behind. It may not seem like it now, but it was a gamble to suggest back then under my byline India was about to come out of its long economic coma. This grew about fold in the ten years after the article appeared.
Yes, India has English. I work every day in an alien tongue and in a culture steeped in Confucian values that play little or no part in my own ethical code. But, China was, is and shall long remain the great economic success story of all-time. If you ask LPs, the people who provide all the money that PE firms live off, you will often hear a surprising answer: turnover at PE firms.
Nowhere else in the PE and VC world do you find so many firms where partners are feuding, quitting or being thrown off the bus. A partnership at a PE firm is meant to be a long- term fiduciary commitment. In China, it rarely is. The result is billions of dollars of LP money often gets stranded, and possibly wasted. The departing partner is generally the only solid link between the PE firm and the investee company. Everyone left behind is harmed — the PE firms, the companies they invest in, and the LPs whose money is trapped inside these deals.
Will they hang on together through the life of the fund? We know from experience how damaging it is when partners fall out, when key people leave. And yet, we still often get stung. A quick look through our database of PE contacts reveals that almost half the PE partners we know working in China have changed firms in the last five years. If they leave, they forgo this. Carry is a kind of unvested pay. Most China PE firms are partnerships in name only. There is usually one top dog, usually the founder and rainmaker.
This person can unilaterally decide who stays, who goes, who gets carry and who gets a lump of coal.
Top Dog tends to treat partners like overpaid, somewhat undeserving hired hands. So, why have partners at all? Senior staff Vice Presidents, Managing Directors also frequently depart. He had since left and joined another firm. He laughed when asked why he would leave before the IPO, with his old firm certain to earn a big profit on his deal. Partners jump ship most often because someone is offering a higher salary, a higher guaranteed amount of pay.
Their new firm will usually also offer them carry.
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Both sides will negotiate fiercely over the specific terms, what percent with what hurdle rate. And yet, more often than not, it seems to be a charade. From day one, the new partners may already be thinking about their next career move, how to trade up. Note the choice of words: platform, not firm. The LPs — and we speak to quite a lot of them — acknowledge, of course, that there are other big risks in China, that individual investments or even a whole portfolio turns sour. But, this is a risk inherent in all PE investing everywhere.
High partner turnover is not. PE partners deserve to earn a good living, and should work where they are happiest and best compensated. Investors vs. Easy, right? There is one group. Private equity firms active in China. At least some of them. They care more about the amount they can invest in a deal than the profits they stand to make. The illogic at work here is the direct result of some particular, not very appealing characteristics, of the PE industry in China.
PE firms lately have more confidence in their ability to raise money than to invest it profitably by achieving a timely exit. To raise money, though, a PE firm needs first to spend most of what it already has. Result: a rush to get money out the door and parked in deals.
This is one reason for the recent rash of take private "P-to-P" deals of Chinese companies quoted in the US. The transactions seem ill-considered. PEs have invested billions of dollars in such deals but there is not a single successful example they can point to of such P-to-P deals done in the US making money for investors. This must be a PE industry first — so much LP money put at risk against an investment idea that is totally unproved. There are The big picture here: PE in China has become more and more a business dominated by asset managers not investors. How to tell the two apart?