April 4, 2020 / 5:04 AM / 2 months ago

Singapore’s Ikhlas Capital eyes mid-2020 fund close, rethinks $500 million target

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Singapore-based private equity firm Ikhlas Capital will close its inaugural fund in the middle of this year, reassessing its planned $500 million target due to the coronavirus outbreak, founding partner and chairman Nazir Razak said.

“All bets are off now,” Nazir told Reuters on Friday about the size of the fund’s final close. When the firm was being set up late 2017, the fund was reportedly looking to raise as much as $1 billion.

“Covid-19 was an abrupt shock that is likely to send the world into an economic depression; a recession is certain,” Nazir said in an email, adding the firm is recalibrating its investment strategy.

Ikhlas completed a first close of $200 million last April. With its only investment a $5.5 million injection in stationery company Pelikan International last year, Nazir said the firm still has “dry powder” or cash on hand.

“We can expect a lot more investment opportunities now, to help good companies survive and rebuild in the aftermath,” Nazir, the former chairman of CIMB Group Holdings, said. “We must step up...to help in the economic recovery for the sake of livelihoods.”

Nazir viewed the rest of the year as “bleak”, with expectations for a vaccine for COVID-19 unlikely until next year at the earliest.

“There will only be a gradual return to partial normality for most countries; with strict social distancing rules, essential travel only and intermittent lockdowns,” he said.

Nazir said a compound notice, fining him for allegedly receiving money from a state fund, last October from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) was cancelled earlier this year.

He was named among 80 individuals and entities fined by the MACC for allegedly receiving a collective 420 million ringgit from beleaguered state fund 1MDB. The size of the fine was not disclosed.

“I cooperated fully with the MACC by providing details from past investigations that had cleared me,” he told Reuters. “The notice was then cancelled.”

A 2016 independent review found that Nazir did not misuse his position at the bank for the transfer of political funds from his brother and then prime minister, Najib, through his personal account in 2013.

MACC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday. Eight parties have agreed to pay their fines but the agency has not announced any cancellation of fines so far.

(Corrects fund close target in headline and lead, clarifies initial maximum target in para 2)

Reporting by Liz Lee; editing by Jane Wardell

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