BEIJING: U.S. private equity giant Warburg Pincus has set up a China distressed real estate joint venture, in one of its largest investments in the sector to date, the company said on Monday.
Warburg Pincus and Shanghai-headquartered distressed asset manager Wensheng Asset Management will invest up to US$600 million into the joint venture, Wensheng Special Situations Asset Management Co, and plan to bring its assets under management to US$5 billion over the next five years, the U.S. firm said in a statement.
The companies did not give an ownership breakdown of the joint venture.
Wensheng has applied for a local asset management company licence which will cover the joint venture, and which it expects to receive by year-end, Warburg Pincus said.
The new venture comes as a regulatory campaign to reduce financial bubbles in the property sector has created opportunities for distressed debt investors, and as China eases access for foreign investors to its bad debt market.
Foreign distressed debt specialists including BlackRock Group Inc, Brookfield Asset Management and CarVal Investors have been active in the Chinese non-performing asset market, mainly the distressed real estate sector, for years.
Warburg Pincus said the new joint venture will focus on acquiring single real estate projects, starting with "seed assets" located in Shanghai, the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang and Hainan province in southern China.
"In light of the ongoing financial reform in China and the continued regulatory development, the real estate special situations sector is entering an accelerated growth trajectory," Warburg Pincus managing director Qiqi Zhang said in a statement.
Warburg Pincus is one of the largest private equity firms investing in real estate in Asia. It holds more than US$22 billion of assets under management in Southeast Asia and China, according to a company statement.
(US$1 = 6.4588 Chinese yuan renminbi)
(Reporting by Cheng Leng and Andrew Galbraith; editing by David Evans)