Boston-based Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co (GMO), a privately held investment management firm for institutional investors with $25 billion of assets, has just incorporated in Singapore. This marks its first physical foray into Asia ex-Japan, although the firm opened a Sydney office in 1996, and has managed Japanese securities since 1986. The partners founded it in 1977, and it also has offices in London and San Francisco.

GMO is in the process of hiring Glen Howard, former managing director of Towers Perrin in Singapore, to head its Asian business. It is also still applying for investment licenses from the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Howard was unable to comment, as he is not yet an employee, except to say he has been in talks with the firm for over a year, and that the Singapore office may include investment professionals as well as marketers.

The firm launched an opportunistic Asia Fund in 1998.

Best known as a value investor, GMO has enjoyed strong performance over the past two years, which may explain the timing behind a thrust into Asia. It is expected to push to regional institutions its emerging market equities and emerging market debt funds, as well as its tactical asset allocation service and hedge fund products. It introduced its first hedge fund in 1986, but expanded the range in 2000 with absolute return market-neutral and aggressive long-short strategies.