Realizing Cambodia’s Investment Potential: KRW Advisor interviews Douglas Clayton, CEO of Leopard Capital

Interview by Keith W. Rabin | June 2011

Thank you Doug for speaking with us today. Before we begin, can you tell us about your background and how you came to form Leopard Capital?

Over the past 25 years that I’ve been investing in Asia, I‘ve seen numerous countries transform from avoided frontiers into popular emerging markets. I set up Leopard Capital in 2007 to invest in the next wave of pre-emerging markets. We selected our first target, Cambodia in 2007 and went out and launched a fund there while everyone was focused on the global financial crisis.

Cambodia is far off the radar screens of most investors, even those that focus on emerging and frontier markets. Can you tell us about Cambodia as an investment destination?

Cambodia is a remarkable country, a poster child of post-conflict healing. The economy is still small but will grow multi-fold over the next few decades.

Cambodia begins to attract money

June 2011

Cambodia, once regarded as a spill-over investment from Vietnam, is showing signs of standing on its own feet as frontier funds start to produce strong returns.

Frontier investors such as Leopard Capital – a private equity fund which launched a potential $100m Cambodia-focused fund in 2008 only to close with $34m – is now finding renewed interest in the country, holding the door open as other regional funds begin to sense an opportunity.

Vietnam’s largest asset manager, Vinacapital Investment Management, in January announced it would be expanding into Cambodia with a pledge to invest $100m, launching a dedicated fund targeting real estate, infrastructure, hospitality and agriculture investments.

Travel Notes: Cuba Prepares for Perestroika

By Douglas Clayton | March 2011

Dividing Old Havana from Chinatown is Cuba's Capitolio Nacional, a monumental edifice with a fateful past. El Capitolio was conceived during the "Roaring Twenties", when the island led the world in sugar exports and the future seemed blue-sky. President Gerardo Machado, who dreamed of turning Cuba into the Switzerland of the Americas, decided that his four million countrymen needed a domed Capitol building even taller and more ornate than the one he toured in Washington. Cuba's Congress dutifully poured 3% of the country's GDP into their new home (akin to the US Congress spending $42 billion for a new office today, but let's not give them any ideas...) It took 5,000 skilled Cuban laborers just three years to complete El Capitolio, which featured gilt ceilings, a giant diamond embedded into the pristine marble floor, and the world's third-largest indoor statue. However, the showy project couldn't have been more poorly timed: while the building rose, America's stock market crashed, the Great Depression unfolded, and the Hawley-Smoot tariffs crushed Cuban sugar prices by 74%. As El Capitolio's ribbon was cut in 1932 Cuba's economy lay in tatters, with two-thirds of its citizens thrown into destitution. Machado was forced out of office, and his dream building would perform Congressional service for only 27 years before Fidel Castro's revolutionaries swept into Havana and opted for more austere premises.