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US-based private equity fund Providence Equity Partners and UK’s Symphony Capital have emerged as the two largest PE investors in India for 2008, as per data compiled by advisory firm Grant Thornton. They are followed by DE Shaw, IDFC Private Equity and MPC Synergy, which is a joint venture between Germany’s MPC Capital and Switzerlandbased Synergy Asset Management SA.

Four of the top five PE investors of 2007—Temasek, Goldman Sachs, Carlyle and Citigroup—have dropped down the pecking order with US-based DE Shaw being the only one to occupy the top five slots for both 2007 and 2008.
Not surprisingly, the global financial crisis has taken its toll on private equity investments in the country and the total value of announced PE deals in the country shrunk 45% to $10.5 billion in the year gone by.

According to Grant Thornton, Providence’s 20% in Aditya Birla Telecom for $640 million constituted single biggest PE transaction during the year. Interestingly, while this was the lone deal struck by Providence, it was big enough to propel the US fund to the top spot in the PE league tables. London-based Symphony Capital, which invested $450 million in DLF Assets, also acquired the stake held by co-investor Lehman Brothers’ sponsored fund. The exact amount paid for this secondary transaction stands undisclosed but Lehman had originally invested around $200 million for picking the minority stake. If Symphony paid the same amount to Lehman then its twin investments in DLF Assets would edge out Providence-Aditya Birla Telecom as the biggest PE deal in 2008 by a whisker.

DE Shaw was the other large investor which brought in $422 million through three out of six deals. Its investments in the remaining three deals were not disclosed but it is estimated that the total investments were in the region of $500-550 million.

In terms of number of PE deals, ICICI Venture and NEA Indo US Ventures emerged at the top with eight small and mid-sized transactions. In all, there were close to 19 PE firms who struck deals worth $100 million plus last year against 33 such fund houses in 2007 and 15 PE firms in 2006.

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