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Mason Group’s offshore WM to target Chinese HNWI

Hong Kong financial company Mason Group Holdings has announced plans to build an offshore wealth management business with at least $3bn in assets through a series of acquisitions.

The company, which operates a brokerage and a healthcare business, is backed by Hui Wing Mau, the billionaire founder of Chinese developer Shimao.

Mason is in talks with multiple firms to either acquire or form partnerships with an aim to announce deals by the end of this year, chief executive Alex Ko and chief operating officer Joel Chang said in a Bloomberg interview.

Mason’s management is eyeing opportunities in Europe, citing Fosun International’s purchase of a German private bank last year as an example of the sort of deals they might be interested in doing.

“We are building a financial platform to tap into the global asset allocation business,” Ko said.

“Buying a bank may sound a complicated thing to do, but Europe has a lot of well-regulated banks of different sizes that have a good standing in their own country.”

Asian insurance companies “are also on Mason’s deal radar,” Ko added.

While the executives did not disclose the amount they have to spend on acquisitions, Chang said Mason is nearly debt free and has net assets close to HK$6bn ($768.5m).

The firm could raise funds through debt or equity issuances to finance deals if necessary, Chang said.

A crowded space

The main targets of Mason’s new wealth business will be increasingly affluent Chinese nationals with a rising appetite for offshore investments, reports Singapore newspaper The Straits Times.

Mason is therefore entering a busy and attractive high net worth individual market with over a million millionaires, according to a 2015 estimate by strategic advisory firm Capgemini – a space that is already being targeted by the biggest private banks in Asia; including UBS and Credit Suisse.

Last week, Ping An Insurance Group also confirmed plans for its online financial division Lufax to launch its first direct-to-consumer online investment platform in Singapore, with a focus on Chinese overseas retail clients.

Another indicator of the market’s appeal is the 51% increase in the number of asset management licenses the Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission has issued over a five-year span from 2012, data compiled by regulator show.

Infrastructure in place

Mason’s new wealth business would be able to lean on the firm’s Hong Kong brokerage to execute stock trades on its behalf in the city, Ko said.

The firm intends to take advantage of its links to Hui’s Shimao Property Holdings in China by offering its financial products to people living in Shimao’s developments, chief operating officer Chang explained.

Hui, whose net worth the Bloomberg Billionaires Index puts at $5.4bn, first invested in the firm last September, the month when Ko and Chang joined. The Shimao founder and chairman is Mason’s second-biggest shareholder, with a 17% stake.

Part of the Mark Allen Group.