A private equity group co-founded by the son of Wen Jiabao, China’s premier, is close to raising $1bn from foreign investors for a fund that will invest in mainland groups.
New Horizon Capital has raised about $750m for the fund from existing investors and expects to raise the total to $1bn in the coming weeks, according to people close to the fund.
Wen Yunsong, also known as Winston Wen, is the only son of the Chinese premier and has been an active participant in Chinese investment since earning an MBA at Kellogg management school at Northwestern University in the US.
He helped set up New Horizon in 2005 and has been instrumental in attracting large commitments to its funds, according to people familiar with the group.
The children of China’s leaders enjoy unparalleled access to decision-makers and are seen as essential facilitators by many foreign businesses operating in the country.
But while their names can help attract investors, any public perception in China that they are trading on their family’s name can be politically devastating and details of their activities are often regarded as state secrets.
Internet searches for information on New Horizon and Winston Wen were blocked in China on Tuesday.
In a similar situation in July last year, the Central Propaganda Department ordered all Chinese search engines to block searches related to a corruption probe in Namibia involving Nuctech, the airport scanner group controlled by Hu Haifeng, 38-year-old son of Hu Jintao, China’s president.
“[The government and the younger Mr Wen] definitely don’t want anyone in China to know that the premier’s son is doing a big investment fund,” one person familiar with New Horizon said.
Numerous people contacted by the Financial Times declined to discuss the matter because of its sensitivity, and New Horizon representatives refused to comment.
Japan’s Softbank, Singapore’s Temasek and Deutsche Bank are investors in two US dollar funds launched by New Horizon, which has made co-investments in China with Goldman Sachs and CDH, the Chinese private equity group.
New Horizon’s first fund was incorporated in the Cayman Islands in May 2005 with $100m raised primarily from Temasek and Softbank. It closed its second fund in May 2007 with $500m.
It says it has more than 20 “prestigious” investors from the US, Europe and Asia as limited partners.
It has raised a local currency fund of about Rmb1bn ($146m) from domestic Chinese investors.
New Horizon’s investments include Kingsoft and Xinjiang Goldwind, the wind power equipment maker, construction company Zoomlion and Shineway, the mainland’s top meat processor.