March 05, 2013

PEI Awards: J-Star is chosen as "Firm Of The Year In Japan", while Sushiro Gave Unison "Exit Of The Year In Asia".

J-Star is awarded "PEI Firm Of The Year In Japan", beating Bain Capital and The Longreach Group. PEI writes:

The big story in Japan in 2012 was the small-cap market, with 77 percent of deals under $125 million, according to Brightrust PE Japan figures. J-Star snatched the plaudits from industry giant Bain Capital as the leading firm in this arena – and with good reason. The firm has had two impressive exits in a depressed market (a source close to the firm described the exits as 8x and 3.4x), both to strategic buyers.The seven-person firm also bought a controlling stake inThree Arrows, a small pet products supplier, for under $125 million. Gregory Hara, president and chief executive of J-Star, likes to call the firm’s investments “solution capital”, because they focus on issues within the company that private equity can fix. He believes J-Star’s reputation in the insular small-cap market has made all the difference.The firm also believes it’s well- positioned to help Japanese companies expand offshore: a January 2013 exit involved a Japan-China business.

Unison Capital is chosen as "PEI Exit Of The Year In Asia" with Sushiro. According to the PEI article:

A lack of deals and low returns in Japan have disappointed investors. But Unison Capital’s 2012 exit of Akindo Sushiro, a sushi restaurant chain that it sold to UK-based Permira for $1 billion, may give some pause for thought. Unison’s sale yielded an 8x exit multiple, says Tatsuo Kawasaki, Unison co- founder and partner. Operational work played a key role. Over a five-year holding period, EBITDA increased from 4 billion to 10 billion yen (€84 million; $113 million), purely from organic growth, he adds. “The management pushed forth with growth and profitability initiatives and these came to fruition in light of the fact that the Japanese economy at best is going sideways,” Kawasaki says.
In the last 13 months, Unison also made five acquisitions, four in Japan and one in Korea, which came from Fund III (vintage 2008). In 2013, the firm intends to raise a new Japan-focused fund, suggesting that the country, at least for Unison, is living up to expectations.