Wittenham Investment Management has launched a fund of funds that invests mainly in the Middle East and Africa (Mena) region.

The Wittenham Mena Plus Fund is a fund of funds that invests in a diversified portfolio of hedged and non-benchmarked managers who focus on the frontier markets of the Middle East, Sub-Sahara and North Africa, as well as the former Soviet markets.

The fund, which will initially focus on the Gulf region, is advised by WittenhamÆs parent, Singapore-based hedge fund research firm GFIA. Based in the Cayman Islands, Wittenham is specialist fund of funds investing in emerging markets

The fund aims to offer investors exposure to the rapidly growing Mena economies that currently are substantially decoupled from the worldÆs developed economies. The Mena region has become a new target for investors looking for investment themes that will deliver alpha. The regionÆs biggest draw is the oil-rich countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), where surpluses from oil receipts have been feeding on economic growth and development for many years. The region is also considered an ideal portfolio diversifier because it has been largely uncorrelated with the rest of the worldÆs markets, including other emerging markets.

By investing with absolute return and hedged managers, the Wittenham Mena Plus Fund is expected to exhibit less volatility and greater downside protection than a conventional long-only product that invests in that region. All of the underlying managers of the fund target absolute returns, and most are physically based in their respective regions.

The fund hopes to capitalise on GFIAÆs long history of identifying absolute return fund managers.

ôGFIAÆs research process has been developed over the last 10 years with the objective of understanding emerging market investment strategies. The process is focused on identifying skill-based managers that are experienced in extracting alpha specific to their markets,ö says GFIA principal and founder Peter Douglas. ôWeÆre strategy-agnostic and include everything from long-only to multi-strategy. In the emerging Europe, Middle East, and African time zone, weÆve found plenty of experienced managers creating very attractive risk-return profiles.ö

Angus Hume, GFIAÆs head of distribution, says the fund is being seeded by a European investor and the firm is seeing strong interest from sophisticated allocators and investors. ôWe expect to grow assets steadily over the next 12 months,ö Hume says.

The fund has seed capital of $7 million and has the capacity to take in $300 million.

The fundÆs independent directors are Simon Cox and Terry Mahony. Cox is the principal of Savanna, which manages investments for private groups, and has extensive experience investing in both hedge funds and the Sub-Saharan African economies. Mahony is co-CIO of Indochina Capital Vietnam and sits on the board of various companies, mainly emerging markets-related funds, due to his long involvement with frontier markets.

The latest fund complements the existing Wittenham funds of funds: the Wittenham Asia Core Fund, and Wittenham Latin America Fund. All are advised by GFIA.