Ascent Capital Advisors India Pvt Ltd, an independent investment entity formed by the UTI Ventures team, has closed its Ascent India Fund III with commitments of $350 million. The private equity firm, led by Raja Kumar (in pic) as Founder & CEO, will focus on growth capital investments and will follow a sector agnostic approach. This takes the total assets under management by Ascent Capital to about $600 million.

Ascent Capital managed to raise funds in the particularly challenging year of 2009 when a lot of private equity funds had to defer their plans. When contacted, Kumar confirmed to VCCircle that the fund closed at $350 million in December 2009. He, however, declined to elaborate any further. With this fund-raise, Ascent Capital has perhaps truly established its independent identity and come out on its own. In addition to the new fund-raise, Ascent Capital will also manage the corpus (about $250 million in two funds) that was raised by UTI Ventures. Ascent Capital is owned by the management team led by Kumar, while UTI AMC also has an economic interest in the investment company.

Ascent Capital is understood to have attracted long-term term institutional investors such as endowments, universities, pension funds and financial institutions for India Fund III. It did not tap domestic retail investors in this fund-raise. This is interesting as quite a few domestic bank-related and corporate PE/VC funds got raised during the period when the parent firms leveraged their brand to raise money in India.

Ascent India Fund III was over-subscribed as it attracted commitments in excess of $350 million. But, the limited partners were not in favour of increasing the hard cap beyond what they believed to be the optimal fund size. With a strong exit focus, UTI Ventures has scripted 21 exits till now. It earned returns of 5X (or five times the original investment) in Four Soft Ltd. In one of its biggest exits till now, Excelsoft Technologies Pvt Ltd, it made as much as 50X. Recently, it made 250% on Renuka Sugars in a PIPE (Private equity Investment in Public Enterprise) deal.

The investment managers of UTI Ventures, led by Raja Kumar, started off with a $27.5-million fund called ITVUS (India Technology Venture Unit Scheme) in 2000. Managed by UTI Ventures Ltd, the growth capital fund was focused on software products and services, ITES, semiconductors, communications, networking, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. Subsequently, they raised Ascent India Fund, again managed by UTI Ventures, with a corpus of $150 million to provide growth capital to companies operating in the field of information and convergence technologies, business process outsourcing, auto ancillaries, pharma and textiles.

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