As Gaw Capital Partners prepares to launch a platform to broaden its data centre portfolio beyond China, the Hong Kong-based private equity firm has brought aboard industry veteran Kok-Chye Ong to spearhead the effort.
Gaw on Tuesday announced Ong as the firm’s managing director and head of internet data centres ex-China, effective immediately. Based in Singapore, the former Keppel Data Centres executive will expand on the success of the server facility platform in China, where Gaw has committed $1.3 billion since 2019, the firm said in a release.
“I am delighted to welcome Kok-Chye onboard,” said Kenneth Gaw, president and managing principal of Gaw Capital Partners. “His exceptional leadership and industry expertise in the fields of data centres and telecoms will be invaluable for the development of Gaw Capital Partners’ IDC platform.”
Ong spent a decade at Singapore’s Keppel group of companies in various roles, most recently as head of strategy and global investments at Keppel Data Centres since 2014. Keppel Data Centres owns and operates facilities across Asia Pacific and Europe, many of them held by Keppel DC REIT, Singapore’s top-performing real estate investment trust of 2020.
In 2018, Data Economy magazine recognised Ong as one of the world’s top 25 finance dealmakers in the data centre and cloud industry. His track record of fundraising and leading investment teams includes acquisitions of data centres in Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany and the Netherlands, Gaw said.
The accounting graduate of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University also holds a Master of Science in Management from Stanford University. He is a chartered accountant in Singapore and a certified practising accountant in Australia.
Ong’s career as a data centre rainmaker has been helped along by surging growth in demand for server facilities fuelled by the dawn of 5G and burgeoning use of cloud services. The data centre market in Asia Pacific is predicted to experience a compound annual growth rate of 12.9 percent from 2020 through 2027, when it is expected to reach $59.8 billion in value, according to a report last month by Renub Research.
Gaw’s new platform can expect to face competition from existing private-equity-backed players including Princeton Digital Group, which recently began work on a $1 billion Tokyo data centre campus, and Singapore-based startup Digital Edge, which recently spent $165 million to buy out an Indonesian competitor.
From Mainland to Region-Wide
Gaw’s move to launch an Asia Pacific data centre platform comes less than two years after the private equity shop announced its mainland entry into the sector.
In 2019, Gaw and Beijing-based Centrin Data set up a joint venture that formed the basis for the firm’s first data centre investment fund, targeting hyperscale facilities in China. The fund was seeded with a 6,400-rack facility built by Centrin in Kunshan, a city just outside Shanghai in China’s Jiangsu province.
Last September, Gaw announced a $1.3 billion closing for the fund, revealing that the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority was the largest backer of the vehicle among several global institutional investors said to have contributed. Gaw planned to use the fresh funding to invest in a portfolio of server facilities in China.
Gaw has raised six commingled funds targeting the Greater China and APAC regions since 2005. It also manages value-add/opportunistic funds in Vietnam and the US, a Pan-Asia hospitality fund, a European hospitality fund and a growth equity fund, while providing services for separate-account direct investments globally.
The family-led firm had $30.7 billion in assets under management as of the first quarter of 2021.