Warburg to invest up to $325 million in Vietnam Vingroup

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A view of the Vincom Center A shopping mall in Ho Chi Minh City downtown

Warburg Pincus LLC, the private-equity owner of Neiman Marcus Group Inc., will lead a consortium to invest as much as $325 million in Vietnam's Vingroup Joint Stock Co., the firm's first Southeast Asia deal since 2010.

The group will spend $200 million for about 20 percent of the Hanoi-based company's Vincom Retail property unit, Vingroup said in a statement. The New York-based firm may invest an additional $100 million, Vietnam's largest shopping mall owner said.

Warburg Pincus, which raised $11.2 billion in May, joins a wave of private-equity firms betting on the country's emerging middle class and real estate market recovery. The deal rivals KKR & Co.'s $359 million investment in a unit of Masan Group Corp. in January and will help Vingroup accelerate planned shopping mall developments.

"There's very good chemistry between the two companies," Le Thi Thu Thuy, Vingroup's chief executive officer, said in an interview. "We want to leverage Warburg-Pincus' experience and take Vingroup to the next level. We want to internationalize this company."

Vingroup plans to offer shares in Singapore this year and Warburg Pincus will invest as much as $25 million as part of today's agreement, she said. Vingroup also plans an international bond sale, she said, without giving a time frame.

Warburg Pincus will gain positions on Vingroup's board of directors as part of today's transaction, according to the statement.

KKR deal

A fifth of private-equity investors surveyed in a Coller Capital report in December said they are turning to emerging Asian markets including Vietnam and Indonesia as investments in Chinabecome risker.

KKR in January more than doubled its stake in Masan Consumer Corp., a Vietnamese fish sauce maker, making it the country's largest private-equity deal. TPG Capital, the private-equity firm run by David Bonderman and James Coulter, said in March it was looking for its first Vietnam investment in nearly four years.

Warburg Pincus's only investment in Southeast Asia was in Singapore's Quest, an engineering services company, in 2010, according to its website.

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