Salt Asia future in doubt after 2014 event scrapped

After making a big splash in 2012 and 2013, the region's biggest hedge-fund gathering not run by a prime broker is quietly binned this year, but was Diwali really the reason?
Salt Asia future in doubt after 2014 event scrapped

This year’s Asian leg of the SkyBridge Alternatives Conference (Salt) has been cancelled.

The hedge fund gathering had been scheduled to take place in the Lion City October 21-24, with former US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke slated to headline the event.

But following a request from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to postpone the event, the organisers were unable to find a suitable alternative date for the venue, speakers and participants, a SkyBridge spokesperson told AsianInvestor.

It would have been the third iteration of the conference in Singapore.

SkyBridge told AsianInvestor it would resume Salt Asia next year, but declined to confirm where. Salt Asia is reportedly looking at holding the event in Hong Kong, Macau, Seoul or Tokyo.

MAS made the request because the original dates clashed with Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, said its spokeswoman. October 22 is a public holiday in Singapore.

She said SkyBridge decided to adhere to the MAS request "out of respect to the many who celebrate this important and religious holiday".

Lim Tung Li, deputy director of communications at MAS, said that he had nothing further to add to the announcement that Skybridge Capital made about the postponement in August. He did not comment on whether the Diwali holiday was related to the cancellation.

One source who had attended previous SkyBridge events in Singapore suggested the conference had been failing to gain traction.

“The second year was disappointing with poorer quality speakers and organisation,” he said, comparing the 2012 and 2013 Salt Asia conferences.

Earlier this year, key conference participants were reportedly informed that this year's event would be the last one held in Singapore and that a different location was being sought.

Alongside alternative investment opportunities, the conference covers macro trends and geopolitics.

More than 1,000 people attended each of two Salt events in Singapore, said the organiser.

But bank-owned prime brokers' in-house events may be better placed to promote the region's growing hedge fund industry. 

"The banks have all upped their game,” said one source. Bernanke, for example, will be at Barclay's hedge-fund conference in Hong Kong this November.

Singapore's government had subsidised the event in 2012 and 2013, but the source speculated it was no longer willing to do so. SkyBridge's spokesperson described the MAS as a "committed supporter" of Salt.

Singapore is known as a friendly place for big events, and the government provides subsidies to events of all kinds that run multiple days and attract global delegates. That is not the case for Hong Kong, Tokyo or other cities in the region.

Salt Asia isn't cheap to produce: in 2013, the event featured celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck and author Nassim Taleb, as well as former US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner, former CIC chairman Jin Liqun and former ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet.

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