Times are tough for hedge funds – especially newer and smaller players – but Chinese managers have been prospering of late, notes Joanne Murphy, Asia-Pacific managing director of the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst Association (CAIA).
“It’s a brutal sector – three out of five hedge fund businesses [globally] fail,” she said, speaking at AsianInvestor’s recent Taiwan Global Investment Forum. And, if anything, the proportion of those failing is growing.
In 2015, there were 785 new launches of hedge funds globally, not a great deal more than the 674 liquidations, according to Hedge Fund Research (HFR). That compares to 1,113 launches and 775 liquidations in 2011 and even more strikingly 2,073 launches versus 848 liquidations in 2005.
This has resulted in an industry that is “ridiculously concentrated” among the largest players, as barriers for entry have risen ever higher, noted Murphy.
The 10 biggest firms globally out of 11,390 manage some $500 billion in assets, or about 20% of the $3 trillion total, by Eurekahedge and Preqin data (see figure 1). The case is even more striking in Asia, where the top 10 run $76 billion, getting on for half of the $170 billion pool in the region (see figure 2).
|Figure 1: The 10 biggest hedge funds globally|
|Bridgewater Associates||US||150.7||31 Jan, 2016|
|AQR Capital Management||US||74.0||30 Sep 2015|
|Man Investments||UK||51.4||30 Sep 2015|
|Och-Ziff Capital Management||US||44.1||1 Oct 2015|
|Standard Life Investments||UK||37.3||30 Sep 2015|
|Millennium Management||US||34.0||9 Dec 2015|
|Winton Capital Management||UK||33.8||31 Dec 2015|
|BlackRock Alternative Investors||US||32.1||30 Sep 2015|
|Renaissance Technologies||US||31.3||31 Jan 2016|
|Viking Global Investors||US||31.0||30 Sep 2015|
Source: Preqin – Q1 2016 HF Update
|Figure 2: The 10 biggest hedge funds in Asia Pacific|
|Platinum Asset Management||Australia||18.6||31 Dec 2015|
|Hillhouse Capital Management||Hong Kong||15.2||31 Dec 2014|
|Value Partners||Hong Kong||14.5||30 Sep 2015|
|Springs Capital||China||5.2||31 Oct 2015|
|Dymon Asia Capital||Singapore||4.7||30 Jun 2015|
|Graticule Asset Management Asia||Singapore||4.1||30 Sep 2015|
|Myriad Asset Management||Hong Kong||4.0||31 Mar 2015|
|Turiya Advisors Asia||Hong Kong||3.5||30 Sep 2015|
|Greenwoods Asset Management||Hong Kong||3.2||31 Oct 2015|
|Ellerston Capital||Australia||3.0||30 Nov 2015|
Source: Preqin Special Report – 1Q2016
The growing need for scale is one reason for the concentration. Ordinarily, a hedge fund needs $250 million in AUM to pay staff, build infrastructure and to cover operational costs, Murphy said. However, as of end last year, about 65% of all hedge funds globally were less than $250 million, and thus unprofitable.
Institutional investors won't buy anything they will get fired for, so the businesses are concentrated in the big names, Murphy said. As of 2015, about 97% of all hedge fund assets were managed by firms with AUM of more than $250 million, she added.
However, China is a bright spot for the industry, having seen demand soar for alternative investments in the past year, Murphy said. Greater China hedge funds posted the best performance regionally (+8.98% last year, versus +6.26% for Asia hedge strategies, according to Eurekahedge) and saw massive inflows last year, amid the market rally. Net flows into Greater China hedge funds were $2.4 billion in 2015, and $207 million this year, by Eurekahedge data.
For example, Hong Kong-based hedge fund firm Avant Capital Eagle returned 74% across all its funds in 2015. The Greater China-focused manager launched in May 2010, with core strategies of long/short equity and special situations.
But Greater China-based hedge funds a relatively nascent and therefore unsophisticated industry, Murphy said. As of January this year, 44% of Greater China-based hedge funds were long/short equity strategies, 13.11% were long-biased and 11.65% multi-asset, according to data provider Preqin. The remaining 30%-odd was spread among macro, event-driven, value-oriented, relative-value arbitrage, equity market neutral, special situations and others.
The strong flows into Chinese hedge funds may at least partly be explained by the fact that Chinese institutions are among the biggest investors in hedge funds in Asia Pacific. China Investment Corporation, the country’s sovereign wealth fund (SWF), is the biggest hedge fund investor in the region, with $29.9 billion allocated to the asset class; followed by Australia’s Future Fund, with $10.9 billion; and Singapore’s GIC, with $10.3 billion, according to Preqin research dated April 7 (see figure 3).
Murphy said there would be more institutional-quality money and private wealth coming into the hedge fund sector in the region, as these investors seek to diversify their portfolios. But investors are getting smarter and looking at whether the fees they pay will generate decent alpha, she added.
|Figure 3: The five biggest Asia-Pacific hedge fund investors|
to HFs ($ billion)
|China Investment Corporation||Sovereign wealth fund||China||29.9|
|Future Fund||Sovereign wealth fund||Australia||10.9|
|GIC||Sovereign wealth fund||Singapore||10.3|
|Pension Fund Association||Asset manager||Japan||4.2|
|Dai-ichi Life Insurance||Insurance company||Japan||3.0|