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China fund management industry sees massive growth and transformation ahead - Asian growth factors still in place but PE is challenged

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The obvious opportunity in Asia is still the higher growth rates in Asia versus the rest of the world, which leads to more rapid rates of wealth creation. The growth factors are still in place: the underlying structural growth, improvements in income, improvements in wealth and consumption. In any category or sector, the penetration levels here are abysmally low (page 10).

The big question is how to tap into that opportunity without tripping up over the risks, which are also greater in Asia versus the traditional developed markets, particularly governance risks. Management and the controlling shareholder are frequently the same party. Therefore, investors need to put at least as much effort into evaluating the alignment of interests between shareholders and management as they do looking at traditional valuation metrics (page 9-11).

Fierce competition moulding next generation of global managers which is coming from Asia

Eurekahedge has a database of around 10,000 global hedge funds, and there in China you have roughly 7,000. The 10,000 offshore hedge fund managers globally trade on 150 exchanges, 50 different currencies, and a countless number of strategies. Now let’s compare that to 7,000 managers in China running one currency, two exchanges, and five strategies. So the competition is fierce, and players and markets mature fast.

The 2015 China crash led to a series of regulatory changes that quickly wiped out a number of less qualified managers. Approved registrants dropped from a peak of over 25,000 asset managers to less than 10,000 today. This is more positive than it sounds. Some teams who wear the printed “I survived 2015 crash” t-shirt saw an increase in AUM from maybe $100 million to almost $2 billion over just 18 months. And this means that now they have enough capital to seed offshore products. Most of them are China long-short, but a surprising number of them are quants, trade global with the China spin. A platform set up by OP Investment Management and the Oriental Patron Financial Group expects to launch over 20 HK hedge funds for mostly PRC managers to help them build offshore track records through a proper structure. OP is convinced that the next generation of global managers is going to come from Asia.

Why PE managers in Asia tend to sell their winners and hold onto their losers

Private equity in Asia also has its fair share of opportunities and challenges. Practitioners point out that the advertised IRRs in Asia are not really the same as distributions going back to investors. Distributions from Asian private equity funds back to their investors lag distributions from US PE funds by a very substantial margin. The fundamental reason for this is that the predominant transaction form in Asia is growth capital which generally has the issue that you can exit your winning deals, but it is very hard to exit your mediocre and your underperforming deals.

A private equity fund might have a portfolio of 15 or 18 companies, and of those maybe only one-third are easy to exit through the conventional IPO and subsequent placing route, but it is challenging to exit the remaining companies. And because private equity managers need to raise their next fund, they exit the companies they can exit, which tend to be their better companies. So PE managers in Asia tend to sell their winners and hold onto their losers, and therefore the IRRs managers report may be an illusion because their valuations on the unrealized portion of their portfolios may not be achievable. On average only about one-third of the portfolio companies by number have actually been exited, and so there is a very long queue of un-exited private equity invested companies in the Asia-Pacific region, many of which frankly will be very difficult to exit.

The Opalesque 2016 Hong Kong Roundtable, sponsored by Eurex and WTS, had the following speakers:

  1. Alvin Fan, OP Investment Management
  2. Anuj Sehgal, Manas Capital
  3. Brian Pohli, CQS
  4. Cina Lee, Eurex
  5. Howard Wong, Doric Capital
  6. Hugh Dyus, Navis Capital
  7. Richard Warfield, OTS Capital Management
  8. Steffen Gnutzmann, WTS
The group also discussed:
  • How large is the universe of really “investable” listed companies in Asia? (page 10)
  • How to get an upside from investing in private equity without the disadvantages of traditional private equity structures, namely illiquidity and high fees (pages 14-15)
  • Development, opportunities and anomalies in Asia’s credit markets (page 11-12)
  • How to launch a HK hedge fund in six weeks (page 20)
  • How to identify emerging blue-chip companies in Asia (page 12-14)
  • How to offset risks in investing in Asia through investing with the economic trend (page 12)
  • Do Asian hedge funds make money shorting stocks? (page 16-17)
  • How not to get trapped looking at the rearview mirror of historic performance (page 22)
  • Why deflation and collusion make a strong case for Asian equities (page 23)
  • - How overinvestment in China affects the markets (page 24-26)
  • Which are the new sources of capital for the Asian private equity industry? (page 21)
  • How the growth of RMB denominated PE has changed Asian opportunities forever (page 19)
  • Will passive management, smart beta and quants win over the traditional active managers? (page 28-29)
  • What quants are missing when investing in Asia (page 29)
  • Machine-learning technology can run funds, but what is the one important thing they cannot do? (page 20)
  • Why every hedge fund will find it easier to onboard German clients (page 30).

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