Regional picks from hedgies at Salt Asia

A round-up of key themes from the three-day hedge fund conference, as well as a few off-key incidents.
Regional picks from hedgies at Salt Asia

China's resilience, Japan's comeback and niche opportunities in Asia were among the topics discussed at Salt Asia, which wrapped up in Singapore last Friday.

AsianInvestor attended numerous panels - and consumed plenty of food and drink - on the behalf of readers who could not attend, in order to provide some key takeaways.

Don't discount China
Foreign investors, who now are among the most bearish on China, need to look at the market over the long run, says Jin Liqun, former chairman of the board of supervisors at China Investment Corporation.

"You ought to have confidence in China because China is huge… because [it] can give you continued investment opportunities through very good reform measures to be put in place by the government," says Jin.

"We need to develop the bond market [and] we need to revive the capital market alongside development of the banking system," which are all on the central government's long-term agenda.  "An annual] growth rate lower than 7%  is not allowed," says Jin, without elaboration.
Japan is of interest
Described at Salt Las Vegas as the most exciting market for a macro fund, Japan has domestic investors - including some pensions - who view activist hedge funds and similar vehicles as an alternative way to get exposure to their home market.

"There is certainly good interest towards these activist funds,"  says Toru Kubota, senior investment consultant at Towers Watson in Tokyo.

Niche is nice
Asian credit is seen by some hedge fund managers as a shelter from the region's storm of market volatility.

"I would favour corporate debt… because a lot of credit spreads now, particularly after the sell-off in June to August, has priced in a good level of default rate," says Ng Yong Ngee, chief executive at Tahan Capital Management.

"We will have headwinds coming from slower [Asia] growth, but it's unlikely to see a messy pick-up in corporate default levels," notes Ng.

Salt swag bags
Salt swag bags are, in the words of Forrest Gump, "like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're gonna to get." And just as you sometimes never know whether a filled chocolate contains nougat or marshmallow, the individual items were not immediately obvious.

This year, Imagine Software provided what at first appeared to be the biggest pocket protector in the world, but after several minutes of contemplation is most likely an opaque plastic folder for A1-sized documents.

There was also a small plastic spray bottle provided by State Street that upon first glance was assumed to be computer screen cleaner, but upon reading the small print turned out to be hand sanitising spray. We have since been rather curious as to what State Street's after-parties might have entailed, or why it thought delegates otherwise might have needed it.

Wells Fargo's swag was more straightforward. It supplied a nifty steel figurine of its stagecoach logo, which upon further inspection could also be used as a coin bank.

Salt shaking at night
Every capital introduction event has elements that include highly attractive salespeople, cashed-up investors from around the world, hedge fund managers freed from the constraints of a Bloomberg terminal, and copious amounts of alcohol.

To those who were not in attendance we provide a small sampling of some off-the-programme incidents. Identities are anonymous to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent.

'Vampire' was the nickname given to one debonair sell-side man after he had taken firm grip of a lower body part of one sales executive, in full view of delegates at the cocktail party on the Marina Bay Sands' observation deck, as well as gawping drinkers on the outdoor patio of nearby Ku De Ta bar.

Another sales executive -  in this case, for a major hedge fund - was much less tolerant of the aggressive advances of one male, who had to be forcibly pulled away. This dancing queen of the hedge fund industry impressed with her moves on the dance floor of Pangaea.

Salt Asia returns next autumn, while the original SkyBridge Alternatives Conference in the US - its glitzy Las Vegas showgirl equivalent- set for spring 2014. 

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