Exclusive | ‘Wealth for Green’: Australian family office Twynam Group to raise US$50 million for Hong Kong, Greater Bay Area decarbonisation fund

Exclusive | ‘Wealth for Green’: Australian family office Twynam Group to raise US$50 million for Hong Kong, Greater Bay Area decarbonisation fund

Exclusive | ‘Wealth for Green’: Australian family office Twynam Group to raise US$50 million for Hong Kong, Greater Bay Area decarbonisation fund

The asset manager’s interest in Hong Kong comes as the city pursues parallel goals of becoming a hub for both green finance and family offices, the corporations set up by wealthy families to manage investments, succession and philanthropy.
Jonathan Green (left), investment director, and Johnny Kahlbetzer, CEO, of Twynam Group, pose in Wan Chai on December 20, 2023. Photo: Edmond So

Kahlbetzer and Twynam’s investment director, Jonathan Green, came just before the holidays to meet with Hong Kong family offices and other professional investors to promote Twynam’s Earth Fund, an early-stage venture capital fund.

Set up in early 2023, the fund aims to raise US$50 million to invest in companies focused on technologies to reduce carbon emissions. It has already signed up prominent investors including US retail giant Walmart heir Lukas Walton and Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.

“We have met many people in Hong Kong and the reception has been positive,” Kahlbetzer said.

Kahlbetzer, who is the second generation of his family to run Twynam, will consider setting up a base in Hong Kong.

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“Hong Kong is certainly one of the top options for investment,” he said. “Obviously, we will consider setting up an office in Hong Kong, depending on what investment interests we receive from Hong Kong and Chinese investors.”

Besides raising funds here, Green believes Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area have a lot of potential start-ups for the fund to invest in.

Before returning to Australia four years ago, Green lived in Hong Kong for several years, so he is familiar with the development area that includes Hong Kong, Macau and nine mainland cities in Guangdong province.

“In the Greater Bay Area, there are some of the fastest and best innovators anywhere on the planet,” he said.

The fund has already invested in four companies and plans to invest in a total of 25 firms by 2025.

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“Our interest goes back to our agricultural business,” Kahlbetzer said. “We are always looking at how to do things better, in a more environmentally friendly way, and to develop new technologies for different types of farming.”

Kahlbetzer’s father John, who died aged 92 in November, was ranked the 49th richest man in Australia in 2019. He was born in Germany but migrated to Australia to start Twynam in 1969. He made most of his fortune in farming while his two sons, Johnny and Markus, have shifted to venture capital and property in recent years.

Johnny Kahlbetzer has a long history in decarbonisation investments, having personally invested US$80 million in the sector over the last decade.

“If we are going to believe in solving global warming, the only way is through decarbonisation,” he said. “That is my mission, our team’s passion. We are amazed at the number of people we have met in the Asia-Pacific region over the last few days who are talking openly about climate change, saying that it is getting hotter, drier and wetter.”

Kahlbetzer thus believes the fund will have no difficulty raising funds. Rather, the challenge lies in selecting companies that have technologies and business models that can achieve the goal of decarbonisation while at the same time bringing profit to the fund’s investors within 10 years.

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The family itself is also investing in 10 per cent of the Earth Fund, at US$5 million.

“The other reason we set up the fund is that I have two children who just finished high school,” Kahlbetzer said. “My eldest son is very interested in this space, and he has already begun to take an interest in the business.”

He added he would like his son to join the family business in eight to 10 years to continue its work and missions.

“That is our family’s reputation, which we consider highly important,” he said. “We want to secure the returns and the environmental impact that we are saying that we are going to achieve by this Earth Fund.”

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