Ardian: Diversifying and reshaping private equity
Formerly a French buyout specialist, Ardian today is a global private equity house with a portfolio worth $156 billion, diversifying across sectors with an eye on Asian expansion starting with Singapore
Established in 1996 as AXA Private Equity, Ardian has transformed into a global private equity investment house of growing influence. From its origins as a French buyout specialist, the company has evolved by embracing diversification and pioneering innovative investment strategies that have redefined its mission and business.
At its inception, Ardian was primarily focused on buyouts, particularly in the French and European markets. According to Won Ha, managing director and head of Singapore and Korea at Ardian, the company’s current core business is centred around its fund of funds business, which focuses on primary and secondary investments.
The turning point in Ardian’s journey came in 2013, when it was spun off from the AXA Group and expanded its global network by opening more offices and increasing the size of its investment team globally. Since then, Ardian has added more strategic offerings, such as real estate, American infrastructure, customised solutions, and private wealth solutions, to its global platform.
Ardian’s approach led to the introduction of investment solutions termed ‘mandates’. These solutions cater to the unique needs of clients, enabling Ardian to provide tailored investment and wealth management options. Ha’s aim to provide a more customised programme to investors signifies a departure from the one-size-fits-all paradigm.
Navigating the complexities of the current economic landscape amid high interest rates and a depressed public investment market as global investors pare down their private equity portfolios, Ardian has identified investment opportunities in mature European and US markets.
Ha pointed out that Ardian leverages three key elements to acquire high-quality deals: “high discounts, heavy cherry-picking, and deferred payments”. These strategies allow Ardian to navigate through economic cycles with caution, ensuring investments are made in quality assets at favourable valuations to capitalise on market opportunities even during challenging times.
Unlike its other private equity competitors and peers, Ardian is majority owned by its employees. It currently has slightly over 1,000 employees. This ownership structure fosters a symbiotic alignment between the workforce and clients’ interests. Ha says this ownership model is one of the “unique things” about Ardian.
Its philosophy extends beyond financial gains. The company’s proactive stance on responsible investment is evident through its partners, who are evaluated by Ardian’s environmental, social, and corporate governance teams for sustainability-linked collaborations.
With an investment portfolio exceeding $150 billion and a global presence spanning 1400 clients served out of its 16 offices around the world, Ardian aims to have a bigger impact on the global private equity landscape. As the company looks to the future, it envisions expansion in the Asian market, with a focus on Singapore.