Muzinich & Co, a US-based corporate credit manager, has opened an office in Singapore, its first in Asia, amid rising regional demand for specialist debt assets, AsianInvestor can reveal. This comes after the firm obtained a capital markets services licence from the Monetary Authority of Singapore in late May.

Eric Pictet, a 14-year veteran of the firm, heads the office as managing director for Asia, having relocated from Paris at the start of 2017. In addition, credit analyst Mel Siew has transferred from London, as Muzinich aims to increase its investments as well as its client base in the region.

Muzinich manages $33 billion of assets globally, including $1.3 billion in Asian credit for its global and dedicated emerging market strategies. It runs about $2 billion of assets for institutional clients and distributors in Japan, Southeast Asia and Australia.

Muzinich aims to expand its client base of institutions, family offices and private banks and strengthen its existing relationships across Asia, Pictet told AsianInvestor. The firm will also market its Ucits funds, which account for some $20 billion of its AUM, to distributors in the region, he noted. It already has global agreements with major private banks, he added, declining to provide any names.

Eric Pictet

Founded in New York in 1988, Muzinich now has nine offices around the world and 76 investment professionals covering the credit spectrum from public to private debt. It started out as a US high-yield specialist, before branching out into other geographies and areas of corporate credit, such as short-duration strategies and loans.

There is growing demand for absolute return, leveraged loan and short-duration strategies from private banks and multi-family offices in Asia, said Pictet, while the institutional market is also showing a preference for loans and private debt.

Demand for more niche types of fixed income assets is certainly rising among Asian institutions. Last week, for instance, the CIOs of South Korean state funds the Public Officials Benefit Association and Korea Teachers Credit Union both said they were both allocating more to private debt. They pointed to high equity valuations, low bond yields and their heavy exposure to other already richly valued alternatives assets. They were speaking at AsianInvestor's Korea Institutional Investment Forum.

Asked why Muzinich chose to locate in Singapore rather than Hong Kong, Pictet said the firm was not looking to market in China initially, plus the Lion City is a particularly easy place to set up from a cost and regulatory perspective.