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Manulife IM acquires stake in China PE firm

The deal will enable the firm to offer China infra opportunities to global investors.

Manulife Investment Management has acquired a minority stake in a private equity firm focusing on Chinese infrastructure, according to a statement from the asset manager.

Hong Kong-headquartered Albamen Capital Partners focuses on renewable energy, data centres and power-intensive infrastructure assets in China.

Manulife IM will have the option to take majority ownership in the future, the statement noted.

Albamen Capital is a new entity founded last year by Raymond Fung, which acquired the entire team, investment track record and intellectual property of Jida Capital Partners, an investment management firm Fung set up in 2012.

The Albamen team managed a fund at Jida focusing on the solar and energy space amounting to around $530m. The fund’s limited partners were primarily onshore Chinese investors, including fund-of-funds sponsored by Chinese banks, insurers, asset management firms and Chinese energy power operators.

Albamen in Hong Kong has submitted applications for the Type 4 (advising on securities) and Type 9 (asset management) licences from the Securities and Futures Commission, and the licensing process remains underway, Manulife IM noted in the statement.

Besides Fung, Albamen’s senior management team include co-managing partner Conrad Yan, who was previously at private markets firm Cambell Lutyens, and partner Colin Leung, who was a partner at Jida, according to their Linkedin profiles.

The PE firm will be hiring more staff and expects to have at least 20 employees across Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, according to the statement.

Business plans

The deal with Albamen strengthens Manulife IM’s private markets capability in Asia, according to Myron Zhu, the firm’s Hong Kong-based head of private markets for Asia.

“Manulife [already] has an established team of private markets experts in Asia-Pacific, primarily managing Manulife’s own investments. However, this deal represents the first time we add a market-leading China infrastructure PE team that manages investments for third-party clients,” Zhu told FSA.

Globally, Manulife IM currently manages around $74bn in private market assets.

The deal will enable Albamen to gain global reach, and at the same time adding to Manulife IM’s capabilities in the high growth China market, Fung said in the statement.

“The [Albamen] team already has a strong onshore China client base, and will look to explore offshore investors for China infrastructure opportunities,” Zhu added.

For Manulife IM, the partnership will enable the firm to further explore more onshore opportunities in China, given Albamen’s access to clients and private equity projects in China, according to Zhu.

The partnership also expands Manulife IM’s footprint in China, as it already has three different businesses in the mainland.

Manulife IM has a wholly foreign-owned enterprise (WFOE) in Shanghai, established in 2017, which provides offshore solutions to domestic institutions.

It has a joint venture retail mutual fund firm, Manulife Teda Fund Management Company, which is of the first six asset management firms approved by the China Securities Regulaotry Commission to sell fund of funds in the country, according to the statement.

It also has an insurance joint venture, Manulife-Sinochem Life Insurance, which was the first foreign investment joint venture life insurer to sell mutual funds in China.

Part of the Mark Allen Group.