Morgan Stanley's hedge fund event showcases cream of the crop

Hedge fund capital-raising remains tough in Asia and competition to attract investments is fierce, but Morgan Stanley’s Beijing capital introductions banquet is too sweet to be sour.

This year Morgan Stanley moved its capital introductions event from its trademark Shanghai venue across to China’s capital, Beijing.

In the years since 1996, when Morgan Stanley ran its first cap intro event in China, it has been a long and winding road. In that time, the firm's prime broking/sales/cap intro torch has been passed from Kurt Baker, Asia's erstwhile "Pontiff of Prime Broking" (now at JT Capital) and Jim Fallon (now believed to be at Merrill Lynch), via Richard Webb and Deborah Lui, right through to today's Ed Sisterson and Hugh Abdullah.

Now the beat goes on, because superstar prime broker Ashley Jarvis is poised to cross the velvet rope into Morgan Stanley (joining from UBS) in the immediate future.

This year, 60 hedge funds and approximately double that number of investors met, showcased their products and ate roast donkey at Dazhaimen banqueting halls; alongside a pantheon of Morgan Stanley prime broking poo-bahs.

As other prime brokers hosting smaller, closed events are banging the drum about how vast sums are pouring back to Asian hedge funds, Morgan Stanley is taking a more objective stance.

“Larger Asia hedge funds have seen the biggest proportion of capital inflows through 2010. Are they now starting to reach capacity?” asks Sisterson, Morgan Stanley's Asia prime broking head. Sisterson won the 'most talented prime broker in Asia' vote in October 2010 (sharing first place with BarCap's Ryan Bacher, Deutsche's Harvey Twomey took the bronze medal).

“Will there be a cascade effect of capital down to other funds in 2011? We don't know, but we do know the inflows to Asian funds continue, with another $2.5 billion in the first quarter of this year. Unlike the global hedge Fund AUM, Asia dedicated funds have still not regained AUM highs of 2007."

Over lunch we asked a CIO of a world-famous hedge fund who had appeared earlier on the Morgan Stanley stage that day whether what other prime brokers were saying was true -- that there was lots of capital flooding back to Asian hedge funds. "RUBBISH," he thundered.

One feature that the media seldom picks up on is that hedge funds do actually have internecine rivalries, especially between hedge funds with similar strategies or geographic focus. “You know, we did better than @(#*&$& fund last year and we had lower volatility.. So how come they raised capital and we didn’t?”

The funds presenting were not for the most part the 2010 and 2011 class of hedge fund debutants, and the greater proportion were names already familiar to the investment community. The seasoned campaigners are obviously still open to investors and looking out for new capital to deploy. One of the veterans wished he had been booked in for more investor meetings as it was a long way to come to Beijing.

As far as we could see, just one fund on the presentation roster, Jean-Guy Renard’s Sharp Peak Vega Fund, is yet to launch. Fortress Asia Macro Fund and Seres Asian Opportunities Fund launched in 2011.

The 2010 launches also presenting to investors were CPC Asia Opportunities Fund, Greenheart Capital Master Fund, Snow Lake China Offshore Fund, TAL China Focus Fund (once known as Trivest China Focus Fund), Omni Asia Fund and Imperia Asia Offshore Fund. All of those funds are up since inception.

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