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Local manager offers BVI hedge fund to Thais

Date: Friday, February 12, 2010
Author: Bangkok Post

Foreign investment by local investors has grown rapidly in recent years supported by market deregulation, growing investor sophistication and Thailand's ongoing political impasse.

Foreign investment funds managed 558 billion baht in assets at the end of last year, compared with 299 billion in 2008.

This figure does not include overseas investment assets through private funds, private wealth management vehicles or other more esoteric options.

A local fund manager hopes to tap into the growing demand for offshore products with the launch of a new hedge fund registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

SAV Management S.A. was registered last October and is licensed by the BVI Financial Services Commission to provide management services to the Thai Icon Fund Inc and Asean Icon Fund Inc.

The two funds are being offered to investors worldwide, including Thais with a non-resident account looking to invest in offshore markets. Minimum investment is set at $100,000, limiting the product to the upper end of the market.

Shirrin Visetpukdi, a veteran of the local asset management industry, is managing the funds.

"Registering the funds in the BVI offers us flexibility," she said.

"We can offer various products at relatively little cost. Setting up a fund doesn't require capital, only a reference letter and profile for the fund manager."

"In contrast, setting up a fund in Thailand is much more restrictive, both in terms of investment and regulations."

The two funds are expected to reach $5 million each by the year-end and double in size within 2011.

Ms Shirrin said SAV Management was one of three Thai-run funds registered offshore, with the other two being Hunter Fund and Ton Poh Capital.

Each has enjoyed relatively slow, but steady growth. "Registering offshore can help fund managers in terms of accessing various tools at lower costs," she said.

Ms Shirrin said the Asean markets were still more attractive than other regions, given strong economic growth, relatively cheap valuations and strong corporate returns.

The Asean Icon Fund will invest about half of its assets in Singaporean securities, 20% in Malaysia and the rest in the Thai, Indonesian and Vietnamese markets.

"The Thai equity market still lags others in the region due to uncertainty in politics, but listed companies are strong as they have weathered the global economic crisis," Ms Shirrin said.

She started her career as an analyst with Swiss Bank in 1994, with later stints at Asia Equity-First Asia Securities, Nomura Securities and Jardine Fleming Asset Management group. In 2004, she joined Unicapital (Thailand), part of the global Unifund group, as managing director and chief investment officer.