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Prem Watsa forming new investment platform to pump in $1B into India

India-born Prem Watsa, the chairman and CEO of Canada's Fairfax Financial Holdings, is set to form a new platform to invest around $1 billion in India enthused by the economic opportunities in the country under the new government, he said after meeting the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during the weekend.

In his media interaction with two publications he said the new platform, which would be announced in a few weeks, would be separate from Thomas Cook. Thomas Cook, a public listed travel services firm, is majority owned by Fairfax arm Fairbridge.

Over the last two years, under Fairfax, Thomas Cook has diversified from its core business and got into HR services after it acquired Ikya and has also gone ahead and struck a deal to buy Sterling Holiday Resorts. Separately, Ikya has also acquired an industrial facility management services firm and most recently said it is buying a large stake in Fairfax owned IT services firm MFXchange.

Earlier, Fairbridge India chief Harsha Raghavan had told VCCircle that Thomas Cook is going to be the acquisition vehicle for Fairfax in India.

However, with the proposed new investment vehicle, Fairfax is looking at having a dual strategy to expand its interests in India.

In India, Fairfax, a financial holding company set up by Watsa, popularly known as Canada’s Warren Buffett, also holds 26 per cent stake in ICICI Lombard General Insurance Co.

In the meantime, talking about the sectors he might be interested in Watsa said he is keen on brick and mortar business besides essential services. He added, however, that he would like to stay away from e-commerce as he doesn't understand the business much and thinks valuations are perhaps high.

Some of the sectors he might be keen on putting in money includes infrastructure and education besides striking a cross border business association where he may buy a manufacturing firm in Europe and leverage European design capabilities while shifting production to India.

He also referred to the possibility of bringing some of the other international firms where Fairfax has a stake to India. In particular he talked about a South African grain storage firm and some of the restaurant franchises currently operational in Canada.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)

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