Centaur Asset Management, a private equity firm based in Dubai, has set up an office in Hong Kong – its first in the region – with a view to sourcing clients and deals.

Nick Hocart will run the branch, which opened in February, as director of business development. In the past year he has been based in Melbourne looking to source deals and before that he ran his own consultancy in London, helping to raise funds and advise on deals. He was also partner and co-founder of Xenfin Capital, a currency fund and broker.

Hocart is looking to hire “a small group of high-calibre people” who have had experience both of structuring deals and exposure to clients. He is also interested in bringing in individuals who have been employed by family offices and have strong contacts in that space.

The firm’s first priority in Asia is to find investment opportunities, said Daniel McGowan, chief executive of Centaur Holdings, the parent of Centaur AM. Its investment focus thus far has been on mining and natural resources, mainly in Africa; wealth management and other financial services mainly in Europe and the Middle East; and agricultural investments, also in Europe and the Middle East.

“In Hong Kong our mandate is pretty wide,” McGowan told AsianInvestor. “We’re willing to look at most things that come across our desk.”

Financial services in particular are likely to be a focus, including assets with a distressed element, said Hocart. “Our capital is very patient capital, so we can look at deals that others may not touch.

“I saw a lot of interesting deal flow through my network, but I needed to get high-net-worth investors or family offices together to execute,” added Hocart. “But with Centaur’s ammunition, I can get a quick answer on whether we can proceed with a deal or not.”

The firm is initially targeting institutional capital, including family offices; as such, it does not need a licence to operate.

Centaur is in the process of several discussions on distribution partnerships in Asia, but Hocart said he could not provide more details apart from to say: “We’re working on a couple in Hong Kong, a couple for the region and a couple in Australia.”

Centaur AM has $500 million under management and is a division of Centaur Holdings, a global investment company that also has offices in Bermuda and London.