Ping An poaches CEO of First State Cinda

Li Kenan has resigned from First State Cinda to be reunited with ex-CEO of Colonial First State John Pearce in the Ping An Group.
Li Kenan, CEO at First State Cinda Fund Management, a joint venture between Australian firm Colonial First State and China Cinda Asset Management, has resigned. Li is moving on to Ping An Asset Management where he will be in charge of a new fund JV being planned between Ping An and UOB Asset Management.

He Jiamu, chairman of First State Cinda since April 2006, has been named interim CEO until further notice.

Li is the latest senior fund executive involved in shareholder face-offs in Sino-foreign JVs. According to an email forwarded by a source, ôLi was frustrated by over influence by Cinda people in the JV and the unwillingness of First State to stand up to Cinda on key issues,ö he says.

First State's comment on LiÆs movement was that he "left out of personal reasons (related to) career development. ThatÆs normal staff turnover.ö

Li was head of research and vice-president at Xiangcai Securities, from where he moved on to heading XiangcaiÆs fund JV with ABN Amro as general manager. The JV has since changed hands to become ABN Amro Teda Fund Management today.

He was later appointed CEO at FSI Hantang û a fund JV between Colonial First State (with 30% interest) and Hantang Securities (40%). China Southern Airlines and Nanjing YPC Refining & Chemical are silent partners holding shares of the company.

The JV sailed along fine until Hantang over-extended itself in a number of questionable trades, which brought it into bankruptcy by 2004 after just two years in the fund business with First State. Investors then filed class action lawsuits against the brokerage house û a scene that has dragged on to this day.

Cinda Asset Management, one of the four special purpose vehicles used for restructuring non-performing loans off the balance sheets of ChinaÆs state-owned banks in the 1990s, was appointed to receive and administrate the fund JV. Li stayed put with the JV, but was caught in an increasingly awkward position of answering to a new master that is a state-appointed receiver, while influence from First State gradually eroded.

Three years later in 2007, former CEO of Colonial First State Investments, John Pearce, moved out of Australia and embraced the China story by becoming CIO at ShenzhenÆs Ping An Group. Pearce is also chairman to its newly created Ping An Asset Management, where he told AsianInvestor in November, he was appointed with a mandate to transform it from a pure investment function to a full-fledged global third-party asset management business.

Pearce did not return calls by press time on his involvement with LiÆs move. But an internal source in Ping An confirmed Li has jumped ship and has gone under Pearce's wings. He is likely to be put in charge of an unannounced JV that Ping An is going to form with the United Overseas Bank Group of Singapore.

First StateÆs China JV has known to be a source of pain for Lindsay Mann, regional head of First State, since the beginning of the Hantang exit û a time when the original person responsible, Stephen Kenneally, CEO of First State in Hong Kong left.

According to Z-Ben Advisors data, as of the latest quarter, First State Cinda ranks 42 out of 60 fund houses in China in terms of assets under management. It has Rmb10.8 billion under management and a 0.42% market share.

Since the beginning of John PearceÆs term, Ping An has acquired stakes in Hong KongÆs Value Partners and FortisÆs asset management arm. It has also signed up Mercer to develop multi-manager investment-linked insurance products. And to demonstrate the size of its ambition, Ping An has recently initiated construction in Shenzhen for a tallest tower in Asia.
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