Melbourne-based corporate advisory and wealth management firm BMY Group, which targets Asian investors and companies, has backtracked on plans entice Asian investment in its Australian start-up venture capital fund due to China’s crackdown.
In December last year BMYG co-founder Eric Gao told The Australian Financial Review that it hoped to close the first $15 million tranche of a planned $50 million capital raising for its first venture capital fund focusing on Australian start-ups whose sights are set on Chinese expansion.
By mid-2017 it hoped to have an additional $35 million to invest in a range of investment opportunities. But the move has been been scuppered by China’s plans to introduce new restrictions on foreign investment deals in a bid to stem capital outflows.
“We were trying to raise capital from institutional investors from China, but one of the difficulties we have right now is the capital controls from China. We didn’t foresee this in December and it has been a little bit difficult to raise capital from institutional investors,” Mr Gao said.
Due to capital controls, institutional investors and listed companies in China are making cautious overseas investment.
“Direct securities, sports club and property investment will be hard to get approved, however investment in technologies are still highly encouraged,” Mr Gao said.
“Institutional investors are also still very interested in health products, healthcare, aged care, education and financial services, or any other products and services that have the potential to expand into the Asian market.”
With institutional investors gun-shy, BMYG has had to revise plans and look back to its traditional investors – high-net-worth Chinese living in Australia.
“The interest is still very strong, we have domestic investment and international connections back to China, if the China [investment] side doesn’t work, we’ll really just focus on the domestic Chinese Australian market,” Mr Gao said.
A recent AusTrade fintech trip to China to speak to institutional investors like China International Capital Corporation, China Equity and Fosun was still worthwhile for Mr Gao despite not securing investors for the VC fund.
While Australia has a burgeoning fintech industry, many Chinese investors are not aware of it, and this presents an opportunity for start-ups and more advanced tech companies.
“When I raise the topic of fintech in Australia [in China] a lot of people look at me and say ‘Are you serious?’ But if you look at blockchain, anyone in blockchain knows that Australia is one of the most innovative countries. There is some education that needs to be done,” he said.
Mr Gao said that the biggest area of potential is business-to-business fintech solutions. While business-to-consumer technology like Alibaba’s Alipay and WeChat’s Tencent is entrenched, the B2B market has been largely overlooked.
“[Robo advisers] could be of interest to the Chinese market. There are people who claims that they are doing something, but the regulatory conditions are pretty difficult at this stage, so it’s all about time but when it’s ready. Go there,” he said.
“There is an opportunity for fintech companies to look at the B2B space. It’s hard to get in, but once you get in there is a massive market. They already have great B2C solutions,” he said.