Alpen Capital exploring opportunities in Myanmar, Indonesia and Africa
Rohit Walia discusses the investment banking advisory firm's recent transactions in the GCC, India, and regional emerging markets
Alpen Capital is an investment banking advisory firm, offering solutions in the areas of debt, M&A and equity, to institutional and corporate clients. It’s been operating across the GCC and India since 2005 – with additional projects in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Founder and executive chairman Rohit Walia discusses the business’s recent transactions, the opportunities he’s looking to discover in Myanmar and Indonesia, and the firm’s associate company, Alpen Asset Advisors, which specialises in asset and wealth management.
World Finance: Rohit, let’s start in the GCC; what opportunities are there for investors?
Rohit Walia: There’s a lot of opportunities – the GCC’s going through a major change in the way business is done. I mean, if you look at the UAE, the ownership patterns we used to have, what you were allowed to do, have completely changed.
Saudi Arabia had major reforms. A lot of infrastructure is coming up with their 2030 vision. Similarly, most of the GCC countries have something or the other happening. There’s a lot of interest from the outside to come and do business in the Middle East and GCC specifically.
World Finance: Tell me about some of the recent transactions you’ve been involved in.
Rohit Walia: We did a very interesting one recently. We sold a food company, a large ticket transaction, to a very large listed company in Saudi Arabia called Savola. A very nice transaction, very strategic in nature. So they took a 51 percent stake in the company, and they left the management as-is.
Complicated – it took us one year to the get the documentation done, but yeah!
We did another interesting one in Oman, where we sold a company belonging to one of our clients in Dubai, to another client in Qatar. But the business is in Oman. So yeah, we’ve done some interesting stuff along the way.
World Finance: What other emerging market opportunities are there in the region?
Rohit Walia: In the emerging market we’ve done a lot of work in Sri Lanka. We’ve funded a number of banks there, roughly three-quarters of a billion dollars. We’ve done funding in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India. So the emerging markets have done well for us.
We’re looking at two new markets I will visit myself now: one is Myanmar, and the other one is Indonesia. We’ll see how that pans out.
World Finance: And what sorts of transactions have you been involved in, in those regions?
Rohit Walia: Mostly financial institutions. So funding financial institutions – and I think one of the things we’ve looked at is impact funding, as they call it. So women, for example: women empowerment is big. Or SME businesses. Things that increase employment, that are good for the economy, sustainable. That’s been some kind of a focus.
Most of our funding has come from development financial institutions, which give you longer-term tenure money. And it’s good for the emerging markets to get funding from the global development institutions.
World Finance: I mentioned at the top your associate company, Alpen Asset Advisors; tell me about its offering in independent wealth management.
Rohit Walia: So it’s an independent asset management offering. We used to offer previously only one bank’s products, which was Bank Saracen. We changed that about five years ago, to have a number of banks: banks like CIC, Credit Suisse, Crédit Agricole, which we are all on-boarded with, and which provide us solutions for our clients.
So each of them has a product offering, which is then tailor-made to what clients really want. So we’ve done custom-made products, we did a very interesting one in Iraq recently, for Trade Bank of Iraq, called Dananeer fund, which buys Iraqi bonds. So bespoke products, depending on what the client is looking for from the solution – we put it together.
World Finance: And you mentioned a couple of new regions you’re going to be exploring; what else is in the future for Alpen Capital?
Rohit Walia: Africa; we’ve started covering Africa, we’ve done a few transactions there. So we’ve done Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria. We’re looking at Senegal. It’s a big continent, huge market, and I think a huge opportunity for growth.
World Finance: Rohit, thank you very much.
Rohit Walia: Thank you.