Singapore Hedge Fund

Alternative asset management in Singapore

Singapore-based hedge fund, Nalanda Capital, is said to be offloading its stake in outsourcing firm WNS Global Services.

From The Economic Times in India, news that a Singapore-based hedge fund, Nalanda Capital is said to be following private equity firm, Warburg Pincus in offloading its stake in outsourcing firm WNS Global Services.

A person familiar with the development told The Economic Times in India that Nalanda Capital has put its 12.3% in WNS on the block. The person requested anonymity as he is not authorised to talk to the media.  This comes a day after ET reported that PE firm Warburg Pincus has held initial talks to offload its 50.12% in WNS for an exit amount of $400 million. The transaction would value the BPO at $800 million.

While Merrill Lynch is believed to be advising Warburg on the stake sale, sources said Nalanda hasn’t appointed a banker but would just go with the seller that Warburg identifies. Since it owns less than a fifth in WNS, Nalanda would have lesser bargaining powers when it comes to price. Sources also said that apart from private equity firms such as Blackstone, Nasdaq-listed IT firm Cognizant is a likely suitor for WNS and will shortly kick off the due diligence process.

Considering that Nalanda Capital picked up a stake in WNS only last year, it wasn’t immediately clear why Nalanda Capital is selling its stake in the firm. “Nalanda Capital is structured like a hedge fund, so it does not have any long-term obligations to stay invested. Also, it will be the right time to exit as they would make a profit,” said an official from the private equity industry, who did not wish to be named.

It is pretty active in the open market and has bought shares in Mastek Global, Carborundrum Universal, Triveni Engineering, Kirloskar Engines Sun TV and Mindtree. Nalanda typically buys shares in multiple lots and tends to pick up 7-8% in any company they invest in.  The hedge fund initially picked up 5.25% in WNS last March and has upped its stake over the last year to become WNS’ third-biggest shareholder with 12.3%. While Warburg Pincus owns 50.44%, the second-biggest is Fidelity Management & Research with 12.37%.

The Economic Times

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Deutsche Bank official reflects on the impact of the financial crisis on Asian wealth management

From The Business Times, Singapore comes news of the impact of the firestorm which hit the global financial industry, wiping out some US$3 trillion in market value, on one area, wealth management, which was particularly impacted .  Huge asset values – especially in structured products – were wiped out overnight.

Mr Raju: Says this is a US-led crisis, and Asia remains largely intact

‘All this hit suddenly after a good run for over a decade,’ noted Ravi Raju, head of Deutsche Bank Private Wealth Management Asia Pacific. ‘No one expected a huge chunk of the market to be wiped out overnight.’  Private banking clients saw their net wealth shrink substantially.

According to a recent Merrill Lynch-Cap Gemini report, the combined wealth of the world’s high net worth individuals (HNWIs) – defined as those with investible assets of US$1 million – fell 19.5 per cent to US$32.8 trillion in 2008, but should recover to US$48.5 trillion in five years. The ultra-HNWIs – those with investible assets of more than US$30 million – suffered an even sharper drop of 24.6 per cent in combined fortunes.

Meanwhile, the banks themselves – having built up huge fixed costs in investments in facilities, people and technology – were suddenly faced with shrinking margins.

According to Mr Raju, the root cause of the problem was insufficient regulation of exotic products, lack of training of the people who sold them, and poor product knowledge by the people who bought them.

‘Over the past two decades there has been such explosive growth that the industry over-expanded. There was also too much fixed investment and hiring of too many client advisers without the requisite training. Banks created and sold structured products without adequate control or oversight.’

The situation was particularly bad for the mass affluent market, or those with some US$500,000 in investible funds.

But the worst may be over, at least for Asia, said Mr Raju: ‘This is a US-led crisis, and Asia remains largely intact. In five years, when we look back, this will seem like a blip in Asia’s growth supercycle. The Asia-Pacific remains the manufacturing and entrepreneurial centre of the world.’

And Deutsche Bank’s (DB) private banking franchise is focused on this niche.

‘Entrepreneurs spend 95 per cent of their time on their business. So we offer solutions in investment banking and advisory work, then bring in our wealth management capabilities,’ Mr Ravi explained.

‘We do not compete directly with the Swiss boutique banks in Europe, which deal largely with the old money establishment. In Asia, much of the wealth is one or two-generational, and largely in the hands of entrepreneurs.’

He said the value proposition of DB’s private banking franchise was its capability to offer an array of banking services onshore: ‘DB is very much embedded in Asia Pacific. We have an onshore presence in virtually every market. So our strategy is somewhat different from the others. It enables us to forge closer partnerships with the growing numbers of entrepreneurial wealthy across Asia.’

Though smaller than the Swiss banking giants, DB’s private banking franchise is far from small.  ‘We have almost 20 billion euros (S$40.8 billion) under management in the Asia-Pacific,’ he said.

This is about 11.6 per cent of DB’s global portfolio of 165.1 billion euro, and has grown from Dec 31, 2008’s 18.4 billion euros.  With demand for wealth management still growing in the region, Mr Raju sees Singapore and Hong Kong remaining the two biggest Asia-Pacific booking centres for private wealth.

‘Singapore in particular has all the right ingredients – regulatory structure, talent, institutional framework – to emerge as a global leader in wealth management.’

But retaining this lead will require more emphasis on the quality of its wealth managers, he added.

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Viathon Capital Launches New Credit Hedge Fund

I know it’s in the US but I always like a new “credit opportunity fund”…

Viathon Capital, LP has officially launched the Whitewater Master Fund, LP, a credit opportunity fund focused on non-correlated absolute returns.

Employing a fundamental, credit-intensive research process in order to identify long and short investment opportunities in the United States and Europe, the hedge fund’s objective is to seek long term capital appreciation by investing in high yield and investment grade corporate bonds and bank debt.

As part of this launch, Viathon Capital has affiliates of Citigroup Alternative Investments, LLC (CAI) as its seed investor in this new fund. The fund launched in May of 2009 with $50 million in capital and had a net return of +0.92 % for the month of May and estimates +2.10% for June bringing it’s inception to date return to approximately +3.02%.

Viathon Capital’s team includes four investment professionals and two
trade support/back office personnel with backgrounds from Marathon Asset Management,
Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Neuberger Berman, SAC/Sigma, Providence Investment
Management and Lehman Brothers.

Big Thank You to Hedge Fund World for the news

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big potential in Asia debt: Hedge Fund to cash in…

NEW YORK (Reuters) – As hard-hit Western banks and hedge funds scramble to sell their Asian loans and bonds, one newcomer expects to pick up these choice assets at rarely seen discounts.

Opvs Group is launching two Asia-focused credit funds designed to benefit from the region’s underlying growth potential by acquiring debt at prices depressed by the global financial crisis.

That’s a classic opportunity, said Barry Dick, who left Merrill Lynch last year as its Asia head of debt products distribution and co-founded Opvs.

“Asia has been sold off in line with the rest of the world. It really looks like a case of the baby thrown out with the bathwater,” Dick said in an interview.

Dick founded the Singapore-based firm with three other Asia veterans: Chris Francis, who ran Asian credit and later equities research at Merrill; Sandeep Gill, former global credit derivatives head at DBS Group Holdings Ltd; and Tommy Kim, co-founder of Singapore-based HFG Investments Pte.

This team spent the past year building a 25-person firm that will be dedicated to the region and, for now, one asset class.

“There are a lot of boutique operations in the region — five guys in a garage and a prime broker — but we wanted to build a large asset management company, the best in Asia, with very specialized investment teams.”

Opvs is rolling out two funds in the coming month.

First will be the Opus Asia Opportunity Fund, which will snap up loans from closely held, high-growth companies in a region reaching from China, Japan and Southeast Asia to India and Australia.

It has been seeded with $50 million and will complete its first round of fund-raising on Tuesday, but will continue adding money through the fall.

The fund will hold these credits until maturity, with proceeds paid out as distributions after one year and then every six months until all the loans mature.

Later next month Opvs will launch Fundamental Asia Credit Fund with $50 million initially and growing to a maximum $300 million. The fund will invest in highly liquid and publicly traded bonds and short bonds through the swaps market.

In a sign of the times, both funds will provide shareholders with Internet access to their portfolio holdings.

In contrast to just a year or two ago, when Asia was a top priority for every Western bank and fund manager, the fast growing region has become a lot less crowded. These same investors have been forced to shed portfolio holdings and often turn first to their Asian assets.

The potential returns on these investments are high, Opvs says, because loans extended by big banks like Merrill, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley during the boom years of 2005 through 2007 are now being sold off at fire-sale prices.

In recent months, emerging markets funds have become a hot item in the hedge fund community. Still, for the relative few prepared to step in today, what was a sellers’ market quickly has became bargain city.

“There’s been a big shakeout since the credit crunch,” Francis said. “That’s left us in a situation where there is an excess of sellers of credit, or people holding credit, but not a lot of people who have balance sheets to take up that capacity.”

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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