CEO Morning Brief

AI Boom Set to Fuel Data Centre Deals in Asia This Year

Publish date: Thu, 09 May 2024, 11:16 AM
TheEdge CEO Morning Brief

SYDNEY/HONG KONG/SINGAPORE (May 8): Global private equity investors and asset managers are readying for billions of dollars worth of mergers and acquisitions (M&As) and investments linked to data centres in the Asia Pacific, as the artificial intelligence (AI) boom fuels demand for digital infrastructure.

The intense pace of deals in the world’s most populous region comes as countries and companies respond to booming demand for AI, calling for more data capacity, industry executives said.

Asia Pacific, including Japan, has led dealmaking activities in the global data centre market this year, with M&A value totalling US$840.47 million, more than half of the global amount, LSEG data showed.

In 2023, the region’s data centre deals hit a record high of US$3.45 billion, according to LSEG. That tally is set to be surpassed this year with at least a couple of large transactions in the pipeline.

A number of financial sponsors, including global investment powerhouse Blackstone Inc, are looking to acquire AirTrunk, which owns 11 hyperscale data centres in Australia and the rest of the region, sources close to the transaction said.

AirTrunk owners, Macquarie Group and Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP), are aiming to value the business at up to A$15 billion (US$9.8 billion), sources said, in what could be Asia’s largest data centre transaction this year.

AirTrunk, Blackstone, Macquarie and PSP declined to comment.

“The AI revolution is creating an unprecedented wall of demand for high quality data centre capacity,” said Garren Cronin, managing director of Cadence Advisory, which advised on Australian data centre operator NEXTDC’s US$861 million capital raising in April.

“The new capacity that needs to be built in the Asia Pacific in the next three- to five years is simply mind blowing. My expectation is that deal flow in the data centre space will intensify in 2024.”

Microsoft Corp last week said that it would invest US$2.2 billion over the next four years in Malaysia, to expand its cloud and AI services across Asia.

The rise of data centre investments in Asia follows a similar trajectory to that seen in the US and Europe, with technology giants including Amazon, Microsoft, Alphabet Inc and Meta Platforms rapidly expanding their AI capabilities.

Microsoft will open its first Asian data centre in Thailand, the company said last Wednesday, a day after announcing US$1.7 billion worth of investments in AI and cloud facilities in neighbouring Indonesia.

Data consumption

Other potential deals in Asia include Indonesia’s state-owned Telkom Indonesia’s sale of a stake in its data centre business worth US$1 billion and Japan’s NEC weighing a US$500 million data centre sale, according to news reports.

Telkom senior vice president investor relations Ahmad Reza told Reuters on Wednesday that Telkom is open to strategic partnerships to bring its data centre business arm NeutraDC, new capabilities and new markets.

“We have explored several potential partners, but we are still evaluating for the best one,” he said. “We expect to finish this process by the end of this year.”

NEC said that it was not able to comment on market speculation.

US investment firm Bain Capital is seeking credit financing for the international assets of data centre operator Chindata and investments for its China business, people close to Bain Capital said.

Bain, which took Chindata private from the Hong Kong bourse last year in a US$3.16 billion deal, declined to comment.

Goldman Sachs Asset Management (GSAM), which invested in AirTrunk in 2017 before selling its stake to a Macquarie-led consortium three years later, has deployed more than US$1 billion on data centre development in Asia over the past three years.

The firm would actively invest in additional projects, with a particular focus on Japan and South Korea, said Nikhil Reddy, head of APAC real estate at GSAM.

“AI creates a different type of need for data centres beyond the historic demands of the cloud, focused on low latency. Now with AI, which entails massive data consumption, capacity is key,” he said.

Source: TheEdge - 9 May 2024

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