Pictet Asset Management is finalising plans to target the Taiwan market with its line of offshore funds. The asset management arm of Geneva-based private bank Pictet & Cie expects to seal a distribution partner by the first quarter of 2007.

It is just one staff member short of having a full marketing team, based out of Hong Kong, to drum up regional business. The company has hired Freeman Tsang, formerly of Legg MasonÆs wholesale distribution business (from his days running retail distribution for Citigroup Asset Management, which Legg Mason acquired last year), to head up retail sales, and is looking to appoint of a head of institutional sales.

Pictet, under the leadership of Amy Cho, formerly head of First State InvestmentÆs Northern Asia business development, wants to sell its Luxembourg-based range of funds to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea.

ôWe are proceeding with the registration of some funds in Taiwan and looking to do the same thing in Hong Kong,ö Cho explains. ôWe expect to have a deal signed with a master agent in Taiwan by the end of this year and will use them to sell funds through the banking network.ö

Under TaiwanÆs Securities Investment and Consulting Act 2004, offshore providers are required to appoint a single agent to have fiduciary, marketing and distribution responsibilities. Taiwan also restricts offshore entry to funds with a track record of more than 12 months, and has certain other barring criteria including any fund that invests in China equities.

ôOur core markets for retail distribution are likely to be Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea while for institutional asset management it is countries including Singapore and Australia,ö Cho says. ôWe will also be looking at mainland China further down the line.ö

Cho stresses that Pictet does not want to be seen as a company that would enter the Asia ex-Japan market and leave after a short time if establishing the business proved difficult, but instead hopes to show its commitment to the region: ôWe feel Asia ex-Japan contains markets with lots of investment opportunities and financial service providers and we have missed opportunities here in the past.ö

On the product front, alongside its emerging market equity and debt specialities, Pictet has produced some punchy portfolios, including a $1.3 billion Biotech fund rated AA by Standard & PoorÆs and a $2.4 billion vehicle investing in the water and air sector