Permira’s decision to join the race for leading job portal JobKorea has triggered speculation over whether the European private equity (PE) firm might be able to use the acquisition to strengthen its presence in the South Korean market.

The company reportedly contacted several domestic investors for possible partnerships as a way of entering the market before and after it was picked as the shortlisted bidder for JobKorea, industry sources said on Tuesday (January 5). However, it has failed to strike any deal.

Permira can’t make active investments in the domestic market despite its deep track records and the availability of Korean employees at its Seoul office, mainly due to a lack of experience in the local market and limited access to information. This is one reason it has discussed possible partnerships for the JobKorea acquisition.

Founded in 1985, Permira has assets worth 44 billion euros under management, with portfolio companies that include Dr. Martens and Golden Goose.

The firm has Asian offices in Seoul, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo, even though its investments are more focused on European and U.S. markets. The Seoul office is led by Yong-suk Kim, Director of Investor Relations, who worked at the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative in South Korea, Citibank and ING Bank before joining Permira in 2018.

This isn’t the first time Permira has participated in a local mergers and acquisitions deal. In 2008, the PE firm signed a memorandum of understanding to participate in E-Land Retail’s rights offering worth 400 billion won ($366 million), but the deal collapsed after E-Land Group decided to sell the company.

Market insiders are watching closely to see whether the JobKorea deal will mark Permira’s first investment in the South Korean market.

“[Permira] had expressed interest in JobKorea until early December, but no move has been made yet,” said an industry source. “Many market insiders are skeptical about its possible participation in the race as the PE firm has almost no prior fundraising or track record in the country.”  (Reporting by Hye-ran Kim)