Singapore Hedge Fund

Alternative asset management in Singapore

Singapore's sovereign wealth fund's $1.6 billion Profit on Citigroup

Looks like the buy and hold strategy worked out for Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, after it notched a $1.6 billion profit on a partial sale of its Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C) stake. The Government of Singapore Investment Corp., or GIC reduced its holding of Citi to 5% from 9%, exchanging its $6.88 billion of convertible preferred stock for Citigroup common stock, it said in a statement. The conversion price was $3.25 per share.

In addition to the sale, GIC can boast of a $1.6 billion paper profit on its remaining stake, according to Bloomberg.

Although Citigroup itself remains mired in toxic assets, GIC’s investment in the bank has fared far better than the investments of other sovereign wealth funds in the financial sector.

A different Singapore wealth fund, Temasek Holdings Pte., took a hit on the sale of its stakes in Bank of America Corp. (NYSE:BAC) and Barclays plc (NYSE:BCS). The Singapore government-controlled entity was Merrill Lynch & Co.’s largest shareholder with a 7.5% stake at the time it was purchased by BofA. Temasek had put $5 billion into Merrill at $48 a share between December and February, but a reset payment and additional $900 million averaged out the fund’s buy-in price to only $23.11 a share, based on Bloomberg calculations from exchange filings. Bank of America’s original stock offer came in at $29 a share, giving Temasek a $1.5 billion profit, but the markets weren’t kind to the stocks of either BofA or Merrill, which continued to fall before the deal closed, leaving Temasek’s investment in the loss column.

For its part, China’s sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp. hasn’t been swayed by its investments in Blackstone Group LP (NYSE:BX) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) still being under water. The fund is doubling down on private equity, hedge funds and fund-of-funds investments in hopes of capitalizing in 2008’s drop in valuations. In spite of the fund’s $297.5 billion portfolio losing 2.1% in 2008, CIC said that it plans on investing $6 billion in hedge funds by the end of 2009.

In June, CIC put $500 million into a Blackstone hedge fund unit and bought another $1.2 billion of Morgan Stanley’s stock. The fund had famously paid $3 billion for a 9.9% stake in Blackstone right before the private equity firm’s 2007 IPO, only to see the value of its stake get crushed when the credit crisis set in and large LBO activity ground to a halt. CIC later increased its stake to 12.5%. Shares of Blackstone closed at $14.89 on Friday, off more than 50% from their IPO price of $31. Morgan Stanley currently trades at $32.53, topping the $28 to $31 range it saw in June. – From the deal

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Sovereign Funds back in business?

The sovereign-wealth funds are stirring. After going quiet as markets crashed and some high-profile investments in U.S. financial companies went awry, the huge pools of capital are back doing deals.

China Investment Corp. is planning a $500 million investment in Blackstone hedge funds and took part in Morgan Stanley’s recent rights issue. The Qatar Investment Authority is considering an investment in Porsche. And with the oil price back above $70, cash is flowing back into Middle East funds.

[foreign affair]

The moves come at a time when significant new investments by SWFs — with between $2 trillion and $3 trillion under management according to the IMF — have been thin on the ground. Figures from Dealogic put the value of cross-border equity investments by SWFs so far this year at $21.1 billion. But that is flattered by the $12.5 billion conversion of Citigroup preferred shares held by Singapore’s GIC and the Kuwait Investment Authority into common stock. Last year, total investments were $46.9 billion, and they reached $55 billion in 2007.

But as SWFs regain their risk appetites — no doubt helped by successful deals such as the recent profit Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Corp. recently made selling most of its $5.6 billion stake in Barclays Bank — they could be somewhat different investors. Some face serious criticism at home for losses made, especially on Western financial institutions during the crash. In China, for example, many wonder why CIC doesn’t spend its cash supporting the country’s own companies more.

Those who have had dealings with CIC say it is likely to focus more on investing in resource sector and alternative energy companies. Abu Dhabi’s IPIC, after selling out of Barclays, says it is pursuing “hydrocarbon-related” opportunities. Singapore’s Temasek, meanwhile, already has been reorienting its portfolio more toward investments in Asia and Singapore itself.

It seems probable funds will try to invest both closer to home, and in industries that fit more neatly with their own countries’ policy objectives. When they venture overseas, they are also likely to have learned from their mistakes and to be savvier in structuring deals.

But as SWFs get more confident, foreign investments are likely to remain vital. First, capital constrained Western companies need deep-pocketed investors, so political opposition to SWF deals could be more muted than before. That is particularly true if funds are smarter in positioning their investments as strategic partnerships.

In addition, despite protestations that some SWFs want to focus on Asian opportunities, or investments closer to home, there aren’t enough big opportunities to soak up all the cash. Large, liquid Western markets are likely to regain their allure.

From WSJA

Jean Viry-Babel
senior partner
VBK partners

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Ex-Lehman, GIC Managers Fuel Asia Hedge-Fund Industry Renewal

June 12 (Bloomberg) — Former Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Government of Singapore Investment Corp. traders are among an estimated 32 hedge-fund startups in Asia that are offering strategies beyond equities, after a record 180 funds closed in the region during last year’s global markets rout.

About 65 percent of hedge funds in Asia trade only equities, compared with a global average of 44 percent, data compiled by Singapore-based GFIA Pte and Eurekahedge Pte show. As a result, Asia’s managers underperformed their peers from Europe and the U.S. after the MSCI Asia-Pacific Index fell 43 percent in 2008, the biggest drop in its two-decade history. The U.S. benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 Index declined 38.5 percent last year.

Mark Ong, the former head of global credit at GIC, manager of Singapore’s foreign reserves, is starting a hedge fund to exploit price discrepancies in the credit and equity markets. Paul Penkett and Stephen Cheng, former Lehman traders, started a fund in Hong Kong to trade everything from stocks to currencies.

“Having a diverse choice of strategies should help the Asian industry perform better than the market,” said Stefano Pizzo, managing director of Geneva-based Unigestion Holding SA, which invests in hedge funds. “It should also attract more investors.”

An index tracking Asia-focused long-short equity funds fell 22 percent in 2008, Eurekahedge reported. That compared with the 19 percent decline of the average hedge fund, according to Chicago-based Hedge Fund Research Inc.

‘Renewal Phase’

“This will be a renewal phase for the industry after the massive destruction last year,” said Melvyn Teo, a director at the BNP Paribas Hedge Fund Center at Singapore Management University. “Raising money is going to be tough though, despite the uptrend in the market.”

There were 17 new Asian hedge funds that started in the first five months of 2009 and another 15 may be set up, said Peter Douglas, a principal at industry consulting firm GFIA. The number of startups slowed to 17 in the second half of 2008 from 26 in the first half, Eurekahedge reported.

“Conservatively, we will see a net increase in the number of Asian hedge funds” through 2010, Douglas said.

The region’s hedge fund industry has been more focused on equities because most managers that emerged about a decade ago from the Asian financial crisis, which followed the July 1997 devaluation of the Thai baht, came from investment firms that bet on rising stock prices, a strategy known as long-only, Douglas said.

The number of new managers in Asia fell 26 percent to 43 last year from 58 in 2007, Eurekahedge said. There were only five startups in the fourth quarter, after last September’s collapse of Lehman froze credit markets. About 180 hedge funds shut in 2008 in the region.

‘Shakeout’

“With the shakeout in the last two quarters of 2008, a lot of hedge fund managers who weren’t so skilled left the industry,” said Han Ming Ho, who heads the funds practice group in Singapore at law firm Clifford Chance LLP. “We’ve really seen a much stronger profile of startup managers come to our doors.”

There may be more startups next year than in 2009 as capital-raising opportunities improve, Ho said. Managers plan to introduce so-called macro funds that seek to profit from broad economic trends and funds that invest in so-called distressed assets, he said.

“I haven’t stopped talking to startups since the beginning of the year,” said Ho, who helped open at least two hedge funds in the first quarter.

Macro Funds

Macro funds will likely be the best-performing strategy this year, a Deutsche Bank AG survey published in March said. About 47 percent of 1,000 investors surveyed in February by Germany’s largest bank said they plan to add allocations to macro funds this year, more than double the 21 percent in 2008. About 41 percent of the investors plan to add bets to distressed funds, according to the survey.

Andrew Gale, a former London-based executive at Dexion Capital Plc who started a macro fund on June 1, said investors are seeking returns that are uncorrelated with market swings.

“People are looking for strategies that are more skill- based than beta driven,” he said.

Gale co-founded Cavenagh Capital in Singapore with Lee Ka Shao, a former managing director of DBS Holdings Ltd.’s Central Treasury Unit. Lee produced returns that averaged 38 percent a year for the Singapore-based bank’s principal strategies business from 2001 to 2007.

Anurag Das, a former managing director at New York-based King Street Capital Management LLC, set up Rain Tree Capital Management in Singapore to start a distressed, event-driven and special situations fund.

Ong, who was a managing director at Merrill Lynch & Co.’s principal investing unit in Singapore, declined to give details on his capital structure fund at Barker Investment Management. Former Lehman Brothers traders Penkett and Cheng opened Omnix Capital Ltd. and started an Asia-focused multistrategy fund in May, Cheng said.

From Bloomberg

Jean Viry-Babel
senior partner
VBK partners

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