Brokerage and investment group CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets has opened its first Australian office in Sydney today.

The expansion of the firmÆs network to Australia offers domestic fund managers an independent agency brokerage with more than two decades of expertise in Asia and access to Asian markets from 15 locations across the region. The enhanced service coverage also benefits CLSAÆs global clients by providing greater access to the Australian market, which represents 13% of the MSCI Asia Pacific Free Float market cap.

Through its Singapore office, CLSA was one of the first foreign brokers to be granted a remote-access membership by the Australian Stock Exchange in September 2007. Execution of all trades in Australian equities will continue to be conducted offshore through CLSA Singapore.

The establishment of a branch office in Sydney is consistent with the companyÆs strategy of providing on-the-ground research and sales resources to service domestic and global clients, while maintaining global distribution, says chief operating officer for Australia Robert Reid. The exception is in China where CLSA established the first sino-foreign joint venture securities firm China Euro Securities Limited (CESL) in 2003 following ChinaÆs accession to the WTO. In June 2008, CESL became the first such firm to receive a licence to trade A-shares.

CLSA will continue to serve as a broker for Australian equities to global clients from Hong Kong, London, New York and Singapore.

CLSA will build out its Australian team over the next 12 months following recent strategic sales and research hires. Research and sales staff will be located in CLSAÆs Sydney branch office, while dealing staff will be based in Singapore.

With its more than 130 analysts covering 1,200 Asian companies across 13 sectors, CLSA is known for its equity-strategy and economics coverage as well as thematic research that include inflation, corporate governance, the rise of AsiaÆs middle class and alternative-energy solutions.

CLSA CEO Jonathan Slone says it is not the firmÆs intention to compete with domestic coverage, but to provide investors with analysis of Australian equities through an ôAsian lensö.

Coverage of Australian equities was initiated in June 2008 with the launch of a report by CLSAÆs head of regional banking research Daniel Tabbush, who called for a sell on AustraliaÆs big four banks in a move that alerted global investors to the banksÆ unsustainable loan-to-deposit ratios. Australian sector coverage now includes commodities, telecoms and transport with plans to add consumer, energy, insurance and industrials so as to increase the firmÆs ASX market-cap coverage to 80% over the coming 12 months.