WARBURG PINCUS SHIFTS EXECS FROM S\'PORE TO INDIA

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Warburg Pincus, India's largest foreign private equity investor, is beefing up its India presence in what analysts consider to be another indication of the growing attraction of Asia's third-largest economy for foreign funds. Warburg is transferring several senior executives from Singapore to a full-fledged office it proposes to set up in Mumbai.

Two top Singapore officials Rajesh Khanna and Pulak Prasad will move to Mumbai permanently. About 6-8 others will be joining them.

"Warburg Pincus considers India to be a key investment destination and the firm is continuously evaluating options to further draw on the potential of the market. All investment initiatives and plans will, as always, be communicated once formalised," a Warburg spokesperson said.

Warburg functioned in India through a liaison office in Mumbai's Oberoi Towers. Although Mr Khanna and Mr Prasad were both responsible for India, they operated out of Singapore with frequent trips to the country. "This is the place where deals are happening, not Singapore. So it makes sense to move," a source said.

Sources said that the Warburg move would probably result in the size of the Singapore office being cut down with only a few people remaining, while the bulk of the team shifted to Mumbai.

The fund, which has global investments of $11-billion, has offices in Singapore, Seoul, and Hong Kong. It has a representative office in Beijing and a liaison centre in Mumbai.

The fund's new Mumbai premises are likely to be located in Nariman Point's Express Towers.

Warburg has stakes in three companies - Moser Baer, Gujarat Ambuja and Bharti Tele-Ventures - worth about Rs 1,000 crore.

In February, it increased its stake in Moser Baer to 35% from 23% with a Rs 675-crore investment. The fund has also got majority control of WNS, a business process outsourcing (BPO) company initially set up by British Airways.

The Indian economy, Asia's third-largest, is expected to grow by over 8% in the year ending March, 2004, making it one of the best performers in the world.

Foreign funds continue to pour money into the country with investments in both debt and equity topping $25 billion this year.

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