Morgan Stanley intends to open a prime brokerage office in Sydney later this year.

The firm will be sending back two existing (antipodean) Morgan Stanley officials and hiring a pair of local staff members. Together they will handle sales, capital introductions, client services and consultancy. The exact names on that staff roster have not been decided yet.

Morgan Stanley says that in basing a prime brokerage representation locally, it was bowing to the requests of hedge funds and investors in the Australian market. At present, it is estimated by Axiss Australia, a government agency, that the aggregate Australian hedge fund and fund of funds assets amount to $27 billion.

Richard Webb, executive director of Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong - but who started his career with Ord Minnett in Australia - comments, ô65% of hedge fund investors in Australia are high-net-worth individuals. Only 20% are institutions and we believe this will grow significantly.ö

Morgan Stanley has a market-leading 35% share of assets in the Australian hedge fund sector. It envisages swift growth in the sector, partially predicated upon an LCA Group study that projects tenfold asset growth there over the next decade.

ôThereÆs a deep and wide talent pool of Australian hedge fund managers,ö adds Kurt Baker, managing director of Morgan Stanley responsible for prime brokerage activities in Asia and Australasia. He points out that beyond their local investment activities, 70% of Australian hedge fund managers are invested in non-Australian instruments.

Capital introduction activities for Australia will be organised once the team is in place. For the upcoming Morgan Stanley investor conference in Shanghai, six out of the 40 hedge fund managers being showcased are Australian.