The economic and credit conditions of the past year have brought dramatic changes to Marge Magner's private equity business at Brysam Global Partners, but not in the ways you might think. When Magner, who headed Citigroup's global consumer group before her departure in 2005, and Robert Willumstad, former president and COO at Citi, founded Brysam in early 2007 the plan was to be activist investors in consumer financial services concerns in emerging markets, specifically banks serving nascent middle-class populations.
But in those days, capital and credit still flowed freely, and in the market Magner and Willumstad found companies with high valuations that could pick and choose their capital sources. "Maybe 18 months ago when we visited an emerging market people would say, 'We don't need capital, there's so much available,'" Magner says. "You don't hear that quite as much now, and valuations have come down quite a bit as well. In the emerging markets there are good opportunities."