Published: 18:03, June 21, 2024 | Updated: 18:09, June 21, 2024
Swiss private equity giant opens office in SAR to tap China's riches
By Liu Yifan
People walk past Exchange Square, which houses the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, in Central, Hong Kong, Jan 5, 2024. (SHAMIM ASHRAF / CHINA DAILY)

Switzerland-based private investment firm Partners Group announced on Friday the opening of a new office in Hong Kong, delivering a vote of confidence to the city’s standing as a wealth management hub.

Henry Chui, head of private wealth in Asia Pacific, said having boots on the ground in the city is important to provide local coverage to the firm’s distribution partners in China and complements its coverage across the rest of the region, citing Asian individual investors’ growing appetite to access the real economy via private markets.

The Hong Kong team, led by Chui, will focus on expanding the client base by establishing local strategic distribution partnerships for private market funds and products, including its evergreen funds.

Unlike conventional closed-end funds, where investors contribute capital and then await fund managers to deploy those funds into investments, Partners Group’s evergreen strategy promptly deploys cash for investment purposes. This allows for more flexibility in withdrawing funds, as investors are not bound by a specific investment period and can access their money more easily.

The private equity giant’s move came as the Asian hub acts on multiple fronts to boost its wealth management business, from refreshing its investment-migration program and enhancing the preferential tax regimes, to wooing super-rich families.

In a recent speech delivered at Lucerne University, Swiss lender UBS Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti even warned that Switzerland's position as the global hub for wealth management could be overtaken by Hong Kong if policymakers overreact to the downfall of Credit Suisse.

He said Hong Kong, alongside Singapore and the US, are aggressively competing and making great progress for the offshore wealth management crown, quoting a compound annual growth rate of 7.6 percent in the city’s wealth management sector.

Established in 1996, Partners Group managed approximately $147 billion in assets last year. Its entry into the Asian market began in 2004 when it opened an office in Singapore, the firm's regional headquarters

The latest figures from a Deloitte study show that Hong Kong hosted 2,703 single-family offices as of the end of last year, with 885 of them managing at least $100 million in assets.

Chui said the firm’s investment approach focuses on themes including digitization, new living and decarbonization. It is also actively engaged in discussions on acquiring licenses for China's inbound and outbound investment programs.

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Established in 1996, Partners Group managed approximately $147 billion in assets last year. Its entry into the Asian market began in 2004 when it opened an office in Singapore, the firm's regional headquarters.

With the opening of its Hong Kong office located in the Landmark, Central, Partners Group now has a total of seven offices in Asia and a global presence spanning 21 offices worldwide.

For Hong Kong officials, having more international business presence in the city was a key part of efforts to restore its image as a financial center following social unrest in 2019 and years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Christopher Hui, secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, said Partner Group’s expansion stands as a testament to Hong Kong’s pivotal role in the global financial world.

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“The firm’s dedication, along with that of other wealth managers, will significantly shape the evolution of private markets into a mainstream asset class,” Hui said in a statement.

Last year, InvestHK — the government agency responsible for attracting foreign direct investment — assisted 382 companies from 45 economies in setting up or expanding their business in the city.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu announced in his maiden Policy Address in 2022 the establishment of the Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises (OASES) to woo global industries of strategic importance, such as life and health technology, artificial intelligence and new energy.

As of March, around 50 companies had set up or expanded their businesses in Hong Kong via the office. This includes vaccine maker AstraZeneca and Chinese mainland telecommunications giant Huawei.