The global economic recovery offers opportunities for equity investors to snap up deals in developing economies in such sectors as energy, health care and financial services, the head of the World Bank's private-sector lender, Lars Thunell, said on Tuesday.
Thunell, chief executive of the International Finance Corp, told an equity conference that faster growth and lower debt in developing countries make them less vulnerable to cyclical downturns and therefore attractive places for private equity.
"Private equity in developing countries is based on growth, not leverage," Thunell said in remarks prepared for delivery. "It is not as risky as people think."
He said while demand in advanced economies was still struggling to recover from the global financial crisis, in developing countries domestic demand was becoming a larger share of overall growth.
It was potentially an untapped market of four-billion people who spend about $5-trillion annually, Thunell said.
He said this made for good places to invest in health and education, while rising incomes were pushing up demand for food and rapid urbanization was fueling infrastructure and energy needs.
Corporate chief executives in developing countries were increasingly on the lookout to sell equity stakes to raise capital or lure skills from the outside to expand their business, he said.
Thunell said this was where IFC was weighing in with its resources to boost private-sector opportunities in developing countries and finding impressive results. IFC's private equity portfolio currently stands at $2,6-billion.
Between 2000 and the end of 2009, IF's private equity funds had an internal rate of return of around 18%, he said.
IFC increased its target for private equity fund investment, hard-hit by the credit squeeze last year, to $900 million from $400-million in 2010, mobilizing capital in countries such as Cameroon, Malawi, Sierra Leone and Bangladesh.
"We continue to see strong demand for these crisis programs and likely will continue to do for some time," he said, signaling that access to credit was still constrained in global markets.
"But we should also remember that it is the early stages of the recovery that are the most promising times to invest for private equity," he said, "Now, more than ever, we have opportunities before us that will drive our success several years into the future."