U.S. boutique bank Raine expands in Southeast Asia, bets on media and tech

By Anshuman Daga and Yantoultra Ngui

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Southeast Asia's digital media and tech sectors, underpinned by young consumers and one of the fastest growing internet markets, had drawn U.S. investment bank Raine Group to expand in the region, senior executives said.

"This is the last major market in the world, where you can see a free for all between Alibaba, Tencent, Bytedance on one hand, and the likes of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Netflix on the other," said Joe Ravitch, Raine's co-founder and partner.

Ravitch, a former Goldman Sachs banker for 16 years, before he co-founded Raine in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, expects increased cross-border deals in the region, home to about 650 million people.

"The scarcity of capital in an era of volatility, rising interest rates and inflation, will create investment opportunities and require companies to be more strategic," Ravitch told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the Forbes Global CEO Conference.

Ravitch oversaw the sale of Premier League soccer club Chelsea in May.

Global media, entertainment and gaming giants are ramping up their presence in Southeast Asia's fast-growing economies.

Tencent bought Malaysian video streaming platform Iflix in 2020 and companies including Netflix, Amazon Prime and TikTok are boosting local content and presence.

Raine is looking to add five to seven bankers in Singapore in 1-2 years, said Deborah Yupin Mei, who heads Raine's Asia business and recently moved to Singapore from Shanghai.

Raine specializes in media, sports and technology deals and also oversees $4 billion in growth equity and venture capital. It advised Southeast Asia's biggest ride-hailing firm Grab on its purchase of Uber's regional business in 2018.

Reuters reported last week that Raine had tapped Jonathan Pflug, Morgan Stanley's head of Southeast Asia M&A, to lead its regional coverage.

Mei said the trend of Chinese entrepreneurs setting up base in Singapore as a beachhead for Southeast Asia, was likely to bring capital and new business opportunities in sectors such as digital media and gaming.

"This is another generation that's coming, and whether they bring models that they've tried and tested, to this part of the world or start something new is to be seen," she said.

(Reporting by Anshuman Daga and Yantoultra Ngui; editing by David Evans)