Mirae to establish China JV with Huachen Trust

Mirae Asset's new JV agreement with a Chinese trust will require the Seoul-based firm to raise capital through an issue of new shares.

Park Hyeon-Joo, chairman of Mirae Asset, has often talked about his admiration of Genghis Khan and the Mongols' stylish ways of war and management. Now he is moving closer to realising his fixation by getting his hands on a joint venture with a Mongolian trust.

According to a leaked regulatory filing, Mirae Asset, the largest South Korean fund house to establish an international name for itself, is entering into an asset management JV with Huachen Trust -- previously known as Inner Mongolia Trust & Investment until the firm changed its name in 2007.

Huachen Trust is owned by a Hunan-based steel mill, a coal miner and three Mongolian state agencies. These include Valin Steel with a 48.95% stake; the Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of Inner Mongolia with a 41.96% stake; the Ministry of Finance of Huhehaote city with 8.74%; the Ministry of Finance and Assets of Bayannur city with 0.175%; the Inner Mongolia Zhongxing Coal Group also with 0.175%.

Mirae's spokeswoman in Seoul would not comment on whether Huachen is Mirae's chosen Chinese partner, but confirms a JV agreement is under way and is due to be signed by the end of September. Mirae will contribute Rmb25 million ($3.67 million) to the establishment of the JV in exchange for a 25% stake in the new venture. South Korean press reports say Mirae will need to raise capital for the deal by issuing 234 million new shares.

Starting a greenfield JV with a trust from a distant town marks a departure from Mirae's original strategy for entering China which was to take over an established fund firm. As recently as mid-2008, the group was in high spirits when it completed its ultra-loud Mirae Asset Tower in the Lujiazui district in Shanghai. And it was just inches away from taking over a 49% stake in ABN Amro Teda from the Fortis Group. But that deal fell apart when South Africa's Old Mutual stepped in with a €160 million bid, surprising Mirae and the two other close contenders, State Street and RBC Dexia.

(Old Mutual has since reneged on its agreement to buy ABN Amro Teda, which has been passed into the hands of BNP Paribas following the French bank's takeover of Fortis. Following an unsuccessful lobbying attempt to convince Chinese regulators to allow it to keep three separate stakes in China, BNP insiders say the French bank will likely sell its stakes in both ABN Amro Teda and its homebred brand SYWG BNP Paribas, but keep its stake in the more successful Fortis Haitong.)

The agreement with Huachen will be Mirae's second foreign JV after one with a Vietnamese partner in 2007. Mirae will seek to distribute its South Korean, offshore Greater China and pan-Asian strategies in China through the JV. But it will have to wait for at least two years and gather a minimum of Rmb20 billion worth of assets to meet the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) requirements for qualifying for QDII status.

Subject to the final negotiations on terms and price, the JV will join a queue of 11 seeking CSRC approval for a fund management licence. Those JVs that have been in the queue for some time include BNY Mellon Western, Ping An with UOB, Bank of Beijing and Bank of Nova Scotia, Industrial Bank and Natixis, Aviva Investors with Cofco, and Huaxia Bank with F&C Asset Management.

Another contender hoping to join the queue is BEA Union which is still in negotiations with Guangzhou-based Golden Eagle Asset Management about a potential tie-up.

Mirae Asset was established by Park in the eye of the Asian financial crisis in 1997. Twelve years on, the group now manages close to $50 billion in assets.

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