US fund house Pimco has hired Frank Chen as its first credit research analyst covering the Chinese real estate sector, which accounts for a large portion of the country’s corporate bond market. 

Based in Hong Kong, Chen was previously head of research for Greater China at property services firm CBRE. He has also worked for BNP Paribas, JP Morgan Securities and Macquarie Bank.  

It is understood that CBRE has promoted Sam Xie, previously senior director of research for Eastern China, based in Shanghai, to replace Chen.

Chen joined on July 4 as a senior vice president responsible for credit research on China’s property sector as well as other Asia ex-Japan real estate coverage. He reports to Raja Mukherji, Asia head of credit research.

This follows Pimco’s late June hire of Abhi Shroff from Greenwich Associates as head of Southeast Asia institutional business development. 

Chen’s arrival comes as other asset managers have been strengthening their coverage of mainland property and bonds, as the onshore debt market opens up

For instance, Singapore’s Fullerton Fund Management plans to hire a China fixed income analyst this year, while UBS Asset Management in April added Derek Lai in Hong Kong as head of the Greater China team its global real estate division, poaching him from Macquarie Capital.

The volume of mainland corporate credit has risen rapidly to around $2 trillion, doubling since 2012 and rising from close to zero in 2001. And it is set to continue growing as Beijing steadily makes it easier for foreign investors to access Chinese bonds.