Jebsen Capital

Investing in the Right Gameplay

Alan Tse – General Manager, Capital Management, Jebsen Capital

Ever since I was twelve years old, I’ve been a passionate chess player. I will never forget that one time when I received the chance to lead our high school team against seemingly impossible-to-beat players. After formulating a detailed table positioning strategy, our team improved the win rates and we finally won the trophy!

Now when I look back, I realise that team chess is quite similar to my current role at Jebsen Capital. Besides knowing the rules, winning also requires planning, strategising, and mobilising the right people and assets. We need to remain open-minded and play to our strengths while complementing and learning from each other.

When I first joined the Jebsen Group almost 10 years ago, Jebsen Capital was yet to be established. Nevertheless, the company has always been in the game of “investing”— investing in new legal structures to facilitate growth, in brand partnerships, and in new operating models such as joint venture manufacturing. I realised early on that positioning our roles effectively is crucial to long term success, regardless of the investment itself.

Shortly after repositioning our Mobility Solutions business in 2017, I was tasked to review and optimise the Group’s capital structure and non-operational investments. We had strong liquidity, no effective debt, and a solid investment portfolio. Consequently, our management took this opportunity to create a strategic investment arm—named “Jebsen Capital”—with the goal to further improve capital allocation and utilise our asset base to capture future growth opportunities. Despite our limited investment experience, our team began to embark this challenging yet exciting “invest in investing” journey.

Thanks to Jebsen’s century-long history of operating strong businesses, navigating the unknowns became less taxing for our startup team. We started off by defining our investment scope, carving out legacy investments into our portfolio, connecting with leading industry players, and establishing the right structure and related performance metrics. Apart from the professional support of colleagues across Jebsen, onboarding the right people, with fresh perspectives and competencies, was central to our growth and development.

Just like in team chess, the path to success is hardly ever straightforward. At the beginning, two of our portfolio companies have been struggling, which we had been providing liquidity to support its turnaround efforts. Our team looked at the commercial viability of these companies, and potential restructuring options. Ultimately, our management decided that an exit is the best outcome for all stakeholders. By acting decisively, this allowed us to re-focus and allocate capital to other more promising projects. Similar to the game of chess where sometimes one needs to sacrifice a piece or two in order to advance in the game.

Ever since, we have indeed professionalised our gameplay in multiple fronts. We invested in a diverse range of promising industries, from consumer technology to healthcare, and from plant-based meat to self-storage. We partnered up with leading industry players, such as Warburg Pincus and AB Inbev, to broaden access to resources and expertise. Additionally, we became a versatile asset manager and built multi-asset portfolios to deliver high risk adjusted returns on our buckets of liquidity. Jebsen Capital has developed itself into a solid contributor to the Group, by diversifying our overall asset base and enabling growth with our operating business lines on strategic fronts via our investments, partnerships and support.

Undoubtedly, there is no set formula for success. In the investment world, markets are ever changing, and rules can be overturned. Yet we need to remain open-minded, strategising one step at a time, and utilising our positional advantages to win endgames across our investments in the long run.