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Govt's energy-efficiency push bodes well for LED sector

2010-06-11 10:17

Among US venture capital firms that have a presence in China, WI Harper Group may not be as well known as companies like IDG VC or Sequoia Capital, which manage multi-billion-dollar funds. But WI Harper's role is unique in that it puts together high-tech companies from China and the United States.

Govt's energy-efficiency push bodes well for LED sector

Sean Peng, managing director of WI Harper Group. [PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY]

Founded in 1993 by Peter Liu, a senior venture capitalist, WI Harper Group enjoys an investment record that includes funding firms such as Focus Media and the MJ Group.

The company has also funded the development of China's homegrown third-generation (3G) standard TD-SCDMA, and is the founder of Innovation Works, an incubator launched by Kai-Fu Lee, the former head of Google China.

Having offices in San Francisco, Beijing and Taipei, WI Harper Group manages over $500 million in committed capital and focuses on opportunities mainly in the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Sean Peng, managing director of WI Harper Group, who leads the company's China operations and oversees investment opportunities in China, said the firm has identified China's LED industry as the next investment focus, as government efforts to pro mote energy-saving products are expected to create huge demand for LED lighting and screens.

He also noted that a warming relationship between the mainland and Taiwan will intensify technology partnerships, which could eventually challenge the domination of advanced economies in the high-tech sector.

Sitting in its office in Beijing, Peng recently spoke with China Daily reporter Wang Xing about his views and investment philosophy.

Q: When do you expect demand for LED products to see explosive growth in China?

A: The Chinese government has heavily promoted the use of energy-saving products, so I believe LED products have tremendous market potential here. While demand for LED screens has already started, I think explosive growth will come in the next couple of years, when LEDs becomes more affordable.

Q: WI Harper has a very good relationship with the high-tech sector in both the mainland and Taiwan. What do you make of the recent warming relationship between the two sides?

A: I think it's good news for us. The mainland has a unique advantage in manufacturing and enjoys huge domestic demand. Taiwan has its advantages in technological innovations and management. If the two sides can join hands, I think we can compete with the most innovative companies in advanced economies.

Q: Are you interested in raising renminbi funds?

A: Yes, we are planning on doing this, but we haven't set any timetable. Our major concern is that when we raise renminbi funds, there could be a conflict of interests between domestic and overseas shareholders. So we need to find a way to solve that problem first.

Q: What can venture capital firms do to help China transform from a manufacturing hub to an innovation center?

A: Venture capital can play a major role. Taiwan was introduced to US venture capital in 1986 in the hope that venture capital firms could help Taiwan upgrade its technology industry. It is a good thing that the Chinese government has actively promoted indigenous innovation and encourages domestic firms to go up the value chain. But I think the government should adopt more market orientation, rather than making political orders, to do that.

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