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KKR sees India benefiting from U.S-China trade war

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By Reuters
KKR sees India benefiting from U.S-China trade war
FILE PHOTO: Businessman Henry R. Kravis, U.S., January 12, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo   -   Copyright  Mike Segar(Reuters)

By Sankalp Phartiyal

MUMBAI (Reuters) – India can benefit from the trade tensions between the United States and China, Henry Kravis, co-chief of KKR & Co Inc <KKR.N> said on Wednesday, but he also said the country needed to cut back on red tape to attract more investment.

U.S. President Donald Trump started a trade war with China earlier this year as his administration imposed tariffs on steel, aluminium and various Chinese products. Beijing retaliated with import taxes of its own on products such as American-made cars.

“This (the trade war) is very positive for South East Asia and is very positive, in my view, for India,” Henry R. Kravis, co-CEO of KKR told journalists at a media roundtable on Wednesday.

“As you (India) get better infrastructure, get rid of some of this red tape bureaucracy … this country will benefit big time.”

India rose 23 places to 77th in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index for 2019, up from 100th in 2018, thanks to improving metrics in areas including access to credit and construction permits.

Kravis also said India’s large youth population was a big positive and that the country needed major investment in several sectors such as education, finance, healthcare and environment.

“That’s an opportunity for people like us,” he said.

Kravis also highlighted the need for a healthy local bond market in India.

“If you don’t have a long-term bond market you limit the growth because you’re putting all the onus back on to the banks to basically be the provider of capital,” Kravis. “That’s the reason that we set up our two NBFCs (non banking financial companies) here – one in real estate credit and one is in corporate credit.”

KKR, founded in 1976, currently manages assets roughly worth $195 billion. The company opened an office in India in 2009 and currently has about 43 staff. It has invested more than $7 billion (5.58 billion pounds) in its credit business in the country and will invest more in the business going forward, he said.

KKR has also changed its focus to acquiring control positions or significant minority with near-control rights in companies instead of taking minority positions that did not give the company influence, Kravis said.

KKR’s investments in India include hospital management firm Radiant Life Care and Max Financial Services <MAXI.NS>, the holding company of private insurance firm Max Life Insurance.

(Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal. Editing by Jane Merriman)