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StanChart, Manulife team up to dominate HK’s pension fund arena
Asset Management
<p>HSBC may be the undisputed champ in Hong Kong’s pension fund arena, but perennial runner-up Manulife has been busy looking for ways to bridge the gap – and fast.</p> <p>According to Asia Asset Management, Manulife has just entered a 15-year partnership with Standard Chartered Bank – Hong Kong’s 12th largest Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) provider – to exclusively distribute the latter’s MPF products in the territory.</p> <p>The deal reportedly cost Manulife 400 million big ones, but in return, it gets to boost its 18.8% share of the region’s MPF business closer to HSBC’s 23%. Not to mention a large chunk of the nation’s Occupation Retirement Schemes Ordinance (ORSO) traffic and a big piece of StanChart’s investment management ops as well.</p> <p>Regarding the partnership, Manulife Asia CEO Roy Gori had this to say:<br /> “This partnership between two of Hong Kong’s top financial services companies will enable us to increase value to customers and deliver the benefits of economies of scale.</p> <p>The MPF industry in Hong Kong is experiencing continued consolidation, and Manulife is seen as a partner of choice. Manulife is a major player in the pension business in Hong Kong, Canada, the United States, and Indonesia. This deal complements Manulife’s recent acquisitions in Canada and the United States and accelerates our strategy to grow our Asia and wealth management businesses.”<br /> Photo: Kirill Ξ/Κ Voloshin</p>
Howard Marks still sees opportunity in China
Hedge Funds
<p>While most of his hedge fund brethren rush for the exit at the mere mention of China, Oaktree Capital’s Howard Marks says there’s still a lot of good buys in the region. And not only that, he sees a “bright future” ahead of it as well.</p> <p>Granted, Marks is known as a distressed asset wunderkind, so his view may differ than the Bill Ackman’s and the Ray Dalio’s of the world, but surprisingly, the SCMP reports that most of his positions in the region aren't in his bread and butter non-performing loans or bankrupt companies, rather, they're mostly in listed Chinese equities.<br /> “We have found equities in China that have been worth holding…We strongly believe in the A-share market…We have a substantial position in Chinese equities today and we are very comfortable.”<br /> He also said that there were a lot of good buys when the SHCOMP hit the 3,100 level, especially in contrast to its earlier high of 5,200 points. He didn’t share which stocks he was talking about though, which would’ve been great to hear given that the index is still below 3,200.</p> <p>Anyway, despite all that A-share talk, the man behind the world’s largest distressed-asset fund still has an eye on the region’s various bad debts, and is hoping to ramp up his holdings of them if he can:<br /> “Oaktree made its first investment in non-performing loans in May and would continue, he said.</p> <p>‘NPL investment will be a good idea if banks are willing to sell them at reasonable prices, which we believe to provide good return,’ he said.”<br /> With the market going the way it is, he just might have a lot of those pretty soon.<br /> Photo: Ade Russell</p>
People Moves: Aberdeen hires senior manager in Korea; Monument hires three in HK
Asset Management
<p>Aberdeen adds senior manager in Seoul. Dong-Ki Kim, Russell Investments Korea’s former business development associate director, has joined Aberdeen Asset Management as senior manager for its Seoul office. This will be a new position for the firm as it looks to expand its operations within Korea. Prior to his tenure at Russell Investments, Kim spent several years at Hanwha Life Insurance, where he managed investments from mezzanine debt to properties to hedge funds. He will be reporting to Alex Kim, the asset manager's chief representative in the region. Asia Asset Management </p> <p>Monument Group makes three HK hires. Albert Jun, a former VP and Fund Placement Division senior at NH Investment &amp; Securities Korea, will be joining the Monument Group in Hong Kong as director. He will be in charge of marketing, with a focus on Korean as well as other Asian investors. Also joining the firm are Sabrina Meng, a four-year veteran of Emerald Hill Capital Partners, who’ll be a senior associate within Monument’s analytics team, and Kris Ho, who’ll be handling the firm’s various client service and office management needs as its operations manager. She joins the fund placement agent from MVision, where she held a similar role the past five years. FINalternatives</p> <p>For Capital Markets moves, click here.<br /> Photo: Luke Ma</p>
GE looks to sell asset management arm
Asset Management
<p>General Electric is looking at a potential sale of its asset management arm, reports the Wall Street Journal.</p> <p>GE has expressed interest in cutting extraneous units to focus on its core industrial businesses. The asset management arm has $115 billion in assets from GE's U.S. benefits plans, as well as third party institutional investors. Proceeds of a potential sale will go to GE Pension Trust. GE Asset Management would still remain plan sponsor and fiduciary for the company's plan benefits following a sale.</p> <p>GE Asset Management is separate from the financial services unit GE Capital, but GE is moving to shrink that business as well.<br /> Photo: Diana Parkhouse<br /> &nbsp;</p>
Will VC valuations come down to earth?
Venture Capital
<p>Is the U.S. VC market in bubble territory? There’s no shortage of commentary on the subject, but the conversation was more theoretical before the stock market dipped in late August. For startups and their investors, high valuations feel more uncertain today than they did 12, six, even three months ago. Most of the data in this report is through the first half of 2015, before the stock market lost its footing. As such, they could represent a high point in round sizes and valuations across any—or all—stages. Even if stock prices recover over the next few months, it wouldn’t be surprising to see valuations come down to earth as the year progresses.</p> <p>Through June, however, valuations kept climbing. Seed valuations hit a median $6.1 million, a record. Markups at the seed stage have pushed up Series A and B valuations to $15.1 million and $41.4 million, respectively, up from already high medians of $12.6 million and $35.3 million in 2014. Later stage trajectories were even steeper, and arguably more vulnerable to the latest downturn in public markets. At a median $184 million, valuations at Series D and later stages are the most likely to get hit in the coming quarters. So-called “unicorns”, startups valued at $1 billion or higher, are set to get the most scrutiny. As we detail on page 13, the number of U.S.-based unicorns has almost doubled this year. Another 31 startups joined the club through August, on top of 32 new unicorns minted last year. It’s taken less time for this year’s unicorns to reach billion-dollar status; the time between their prior rounds and unicorn rounds fell to a median 1.1 years, and median valuation step-ups from those prior rounds fell to 2.1x compared to 10x in 2012.</p> <p>One reason for the rise in unicorns (and high valuations in general) has been a steady migration of mutual fund investors into the asset class. We dove into that trend on page 15 and found some interesting results. Late stage rounds with mutual fund participation skyrocketed in 2014 (no surprise there) and stayed high through 1H 2015. Starting this year, however, mutual funds have crowded into earlier stages, as well, causing the median early stage valuation (Series B and prior) to jump to $56 million. The 2014 median was a much more modest $13.6 million, about half of what it was in 2007.</p> <p>If U.S. VC activity is in for a correction, it’s going out on a high note. $21.8 billion worth of investments were inked in 2Q, yet another post-crisis record. The past five quarters have either nearly hit or eclipsed the $15 billion mark, compared to zero prior to 2Q 2014. At the same time, the number of rounds has steadily waned since the 2,200 seen in 1Q 2014. This past quarter’s total fell to 1,767, a 20% drop by count. The sharpest slowdown continues to be in later stage activity, tallying only 338 rounds in the second quarter versus 548 in 2Q 2014. Depending on investor sentiment, we might see further slowdown at the Series C and D stages, or at least a leveling off if VC firms are pressured to finance future pre-IPO rounds.</p>
Legg Mason cracks into growing ETF field
Asset Management
<p>Legg Mason isn't one to be left out. The Baltimore-based asset manager is breaking into ETFs.</p> <p>The $696 billion, multi-boutique Legg Mason requested regulator approval for its first four ETFs last week, reports InvestmentNews. Legg Mason CEO Joseph Sullivan has pushed to revitalize his firm after it was decimated during  and after the financial crisis. The ever-popular ETFs offer Legg the growth Sullivan is so fervently seeking.</p> <p>The four new ETFs include: developed ex-U.S. diversified core ETF, emerging markets diversified core ETF, the U.S. diversified core ETF, and the low volatility high dividend ETF. Legg affiliate QS Investors has developed the proprietary technology for the funds.</p> <p>U.S. listed ETFs brought in $2.4 billion in net new assets last month, according to ETFGI. The funds are raking in cash, posting net inflows of $219.7 billion globally during the first eight months of 2015, a 16% increase from the same period during 2014.<br /> Photo: Liam Quinn</p>
Boston HF does away with 2 and 20
Hedge Funds
<p>We all know how hedge fund fees work. We give them an x amount of money, and then they charge us around 2% off that as a management fee. They then try to make a y amount of money using our x, and then charge us a 20% performance fee from the y that they made. What if they lose money? Well, there’s usually a clawback clause for that – but they still get to keep the 2%.</p> <p>It’s been that way for decades, millennia even, given that Alfred Winslow Jones copped the formula off Phoenician sailors. Two ex-Harvard endowment people however, seem to be trying to change that:<br /> “A pair of former Harvard University endowment executives have built the world’s largest stock-focused hedge fund with the opposite approach. Robert Atchinson and Phillip Gross let investors in their $28 billion Adage Capital Management LP keep almost all of their trading gains—and promise refunds if the fund’s performance falters.”<br /> According to the Wall Street Journal, Adage Capital charges just 0.5% annually plus 20% off gains in excess of the S&amp;P 500’s return. While that doesn’t look particularly anomalous at first glance, here’s the kicker: they keep half of their performance fee locked away for the rest of the year, and it gets awarded to them only if they beat the S&amp;P in the following year. What happens if they fall short? Well, it goes back to investors as a refund.</p> <p>The break from “tradition” seems to have brought Adage its fair share of fans; the firm saw its assets under management balloon from nearly $4 billion in 2001 to $28 billion in 2015, and ex-Harvard endowment head Jack Meyer had nothing but good things to say about their fee structure:<br /> “That’s how I think the world should look…I’m surprised it has taken the world so long to get there.”<br /> It has cost them a King’s ransom in fees though. Last year, when the fund was up 18.4%, Adage divvied up just $400 million in fees among its 26-strong staff, a massive sum by any measure, but still much less than an over $1 billion take they would have claimed had they done the usual 2 and 20 structure. No one seems to be complaining however, as the firm’s crew seems to be more interested in winning that getting on the Forbes list.</p> <p>Also impressive is the fact that they’ve only paid refunds on two occasions: in 2002 and in 2008, when the fund trailed the S&amp;P by 0.18% and 0.75% respectively.</p> <p>It also raises the question though; if their fee structure catches on – which I think it will – what does that mean for absolute return? I thought that was the whole point of hedge funds in the first place – to not be tied down by some benchmark and to just focus on making money, bull or bear market.</p> <p>Its different strokes I guess, but still, I'm curious what you have to say.<br /> Photo: GotCredit</p>
KKR snaps up stake in Marshall Wace
Asset Management
<p>Its competitors may be shutting down hedge funds right and left, but for private equity luminary KKR, now seems to be the time to get in, and in a big way.</p> <p>The Wall Street Journal reports that the vaunted private equity firm has taken a 24.9% stake in Marshall Wace (MW), the London-based, $22 billion long-short equity hedge fund run by Paul Marshall and Ian Wace.</p> <p>How much KKR valued its stake is currently unclear, though the acquisition was apparently a stock and cash deal with MW partners receiving 7.4 million shares in KKR worth $20 each.</p> <p>It isn’t just a straight-up purchase though; according to the Independent, the sale comes in two stages. The first involves an injection of cash from KKR which will be locked up until 2020, with the aforementioned KKR stock vesting in 2018, and in the next comes a possible 15% increase in KKR’s stake at the firm by 2019, with half of the additional proceeds reinvested in the fund and the other half used to snap up KKR stock until 2022, the time when Marshall, Wace, and Anthony Clarke get to cash out of the deal.</p> <p>None of them seem to be particularly eager to do so however, as Ian Wace told the WSJ:<br /> “We were never interested in a financial deal…This is all about the next 18 years of our life, not the first 18 years of our life.”<br /> The move effectively returns KKR smack bang on the hedge fund map, a place it was initially hesitant to join in and was ultimately unsuccessful at following the closure of its Goldman Sachs Principal Strategies group-manned hedge fund last year.<br /> Photo: Esther Dyson</p>
A multi-billion dollar fight: The insanity of Uber and Didi Kuaidi
Venture Capital
<p>China ride hailing app Didi Kuaidi has just upped the ante in its fight against rival Uber, raising $3 billion from the likes of China Investment Corp, Capital International Private Equity Fund, Ping An Ventures, joining investors Alibaba Group, Tencent Holdings, Temasek and Coatue Management.</p> <p>This is days after Uber China raised $1.2 billion in a round led by Baidu. According to the Financial times, the battle for dominance has already cost both firms over a $1 billion in marketing and incentives for drivers and passengers.</p> <p>Burning obscene amounts of cash can be important for start-ups in a nascent industry for obtaining economies of scale, even more so when you have to beat away competition.</p> <p>But, increasingly it looks like this can only go one way. A recent article in Forbes showed that Didi Kuaidi has a 78.3% market share in China vs Uber's 10%. Its not just in China that Uber is struggling to take market share from local rivals.</p> <p>Will Uber snag enough market share to recoup it losses in China? Looking at Didi Kuaidi dominance - and the fact it has the resources and backers to easily match Uber’s war chest - it is difficult not to feel the US-firm is on a hiding to nothing.<br /> Photo: Gary Paulson</p>
Questions we should be asking about Ackman vs Herbalife
Hedge Funds
<p>Herbalife has launched a second video attacking  short-selling activist investor Bill Ackman. It is the latest salvo in a war that has now rumbled on for three years.</p> <p>Ackman took a massive $1 billion short position on the nutritional supplement firm in 2012 and since then he has been on a crusade to bring down the firm. His firm Pershing Square Capital even launched a website comparing its multilevel marketing (MLM) business model to a giant pyramid scheme.</p> <p>The battle between Ackman and Herbalife is unprecedented in its longevity and scale. It has backfired for Ackman too. Changes brought about by Ackman's activism have ironically helped the company go from strength to strength.</p> <p>It is a case that Fortune predicts will be studied for years to come, and rightly so. It raises a number of questions, not just about Herbalife, but questions like: is the $34.5 billion MLM industry really just a giant pyramind scheme as Ackman suggests? More importantly: do activist investors make for effective regulators?</p> <p>It's clear Ackman is not only shaping the future of Herbalife, but will no doubt - for better or worse - shape how the businesses community will deal with activist investors for years to come.<br /> Photo: UniversityBlogSpot<br /> &nbsp;</p>