Asia's top fund houses by asset class, explained part 2

AsianInvestor explains how the judging panel selected the winners for the remaining asset class awards.
Asia's top fund houses by asset class, explained part 2

AsianInvestor’s industry-leading Asset Management Awards are widely tracked by asset managers and asset service providers with a presence in Asia Pacific.

While the awards process has evolved through the years, the awards remain laser-focused on picking the brightest and best stars in the region's asset management industry.

Our judging panel, comprising independent industry veterans and top executives from asset owners across the region, assessed all qualified entries and took the lead in providing valuable insights and guidance on shortlisting the best candidates.

The final entries were assessed by the editorial team to eventually decide on the ultimate winners.

Today, we explain the rationale behind choosing the winners of the remaining asset class awards. 

Click here to see the other winners in the asset class awards.

Hong Kong Equity
GVC Investment | Golden Eagle Global Trends Fund

GVC's investment strategy, focusing on global allocation with an emphasis on technology stocks, demonstrated a keen understanding of market trends and opportunities.

While one of the smaller funds, judges were impressed by its hunger to succeed.

“Among these types of portfolio managers there is more determination for outperformance,” judges said. 

At the end of 2023, the Golden Eagle Global Trends Fund had assets under management (AUM) of $86.9 million, with a year-on-year growth rate of 48.92%.

The fund's net asset value (NAV) experienced growth of 39.42% during the year, and its Sharpe ratio stood at 0.82.

Over the past eight years, Golden Eagle Global Trends Fund has demonstrated remarkable performance. It has achieved a total return of 142.13% and an annualised return of 11.69%.

By way of comparison, the benchmark index, MSCI ACWI Index, delivered a return of 66.63% with an annualized return of 5.91% over the same period.

By investing funds into areas with weaker correlation to China, such as US and Hong

Kong stocks, the fund was able to offer an effective asset allocation strategy for ultra-high net worth investors in mainland China.

“This investment approach not only reduces investment risks but also facilitates better asset diversification and long-term growth,” GVC says.

Best Indian Equity
Manulife Investment Management | Manulife Global Funds - India Equity Fund

India was one of the best performing markets in the Asia region, and globally, in 2023 and Manulife Global Funds – India Equity Fund successfully rode this wave with strong stock selection and asset allocation decisions.

During the eligibility period, the fund outperformed the benchmark the MSCI India 10/40 Index to show robust 28.5%  AUM growth despite a competitive operating environment.

Notably, inflows came from Malaysia and Hong Kong, indicating growing investor confidence in the fund's performance and strategy.

By focusing on primary growth drivers such as digitisation and the reinvestment policies underpinning India’s manufacturing growth, the fund was able to maintain a longer-term view.

This approach has enabled it to identify attractive investment opportunities without chasing stocks with unattractive valuations.

The fund is backing India’s structural reforms which it believes will deliver the country a more efficient, productive, and resilient economy.

“The strong primary growth drivers create multiple new themes and investible opportunities that could be potential wealth creators for investors,” the fund says.

Throughout the year, its sectoral positioning was driven by its thematic framework.

It was more optimistic on India’s manufacturing plays, domestic demand beneficiaries, healthcare, and utilities.

Conversely, it remained cautious on sectors such as IT services and consumer staples.

The fund says it is identifying future wealth creators based on the 5Ds framework – Digitalisation, Deglobalisation, Decarbonisation, Demography, and Deficit Reduction.

Best Japan Equity
Nikko Asset Management | Japan Dividend Equity Strategy

Japanese stock prices reached a 33-year high at the end of 2023 as the economy emerged from deflation and felt the positive impact of a decade of corporate governance reforms.

It’s little wonder then that Japanese equities are finally finding their place in the sun.

For foreign investors, in particular, Japanese equities are becoming an increasingly attractive investment destination, even more so regionally as China becomes less attractive amid concerns over the country’s real estate market.

Japan’s market appeal also includes expectations of renewed growth driven by inflation and wage hikes, a continued undervaluation of Japanese stocks, and the robust financial position of Japanese corporates.

This all spells good news for Nikko Asset Management which was a clear winner in this category.

Judges comments focused on the fund's strategy, which is anchored in meticulous bottom-up research, a focused portfolio, and robust downside protection.

Recent sectoral emphasis for the fund included IT services, network construction, outsourcing firms, housing, real estate, construction, construction materials, and retail specialty stores, sectors that offered both stability and growth.

The fund also considered cyclical sectors such as electronic materials, electronic components, machinery, and automobile-related companies that provided exposure to global market trends.

In 2023, the strategy reaped benefits from companies' heightened focus on shareholder returns, resulting in an increased dividend payout ratio.

With low portfolio beta, the strategy outperformed the overall market, delivering a commendable risk-adjusted return.

Best Absolute Returns Manager
Tribeca Investment Partners | Tribeca Asia Credit Fund

Tribeca Asia Credit Fund has consistently demonstrated exceptional performance and its ability to read emerging markets has become a byword for excellence.

The strategy seeks to generate attractive risk-adjusted absolute returns, targeting 8-10% per annum through investing in liquid corporate credit instruments in Asia.

Through effective risk management strategies, Tribeca – unlike many other regional funds - entirely avoided the China property collapse, preserving performance amid market volatility.

Since inception, the fund has returned 48.2% on a gross basis, surpassing returns from Asia HY bonds, Asia IG bonds, and global bonds.

It concluded 2023 strongly, bringing the full-year return to 22.88%, to outperform both Asia and global bonds.

The fund demonstrated resilience amid rising rates, positioning strategically on the shorter end of the curve, and shifting into longer duration bonds when 5-10 year Treasury yields reached close to 5%.

The fund's strong gross return of 22.9% with an annualised volatility of 11.1% and a Sharpe ratio of 2.1x, outperformed its closest benchmark by 17.8%.

Judges were impressed by its overall robust investment approach, strategic positioning, and depth of analysis as well as its ability to provide exposure to higher-yielding Asia Pacific credit markets.

Best Infrastructure Manager
Stonepeak | Stonepeak Global Renewable Fund

Stonepeak's Global Renewable Fund demonstrated resilience, discipline, and success in navigating the complexities of the 2023 energy and energy transition market.

With a differentiated origination approach, thematic investing strategy, and deep sector expertise, judges were impressed by its strong returns which created value for its investors amid challenging market conditions.

2023 was a big year for the US-based infrastructure private equity firm and its Asia ambitions.

In November, it was reported that it would be investing as much as $650 million into a Singapore-based investment firm specialising in green infrastructure as it continues to expand its bets in Asia Pacific.

Stonepeak said it had made a “strategic, preferred investment” into AGP Sustainable Real Assets, a five-year-old company backed by partners from Singapore investment manager Avila Capital and alumni of renewable energy player Equis Funds.

The investment is aimed at growing the firm’s global portfolio of infrastructure and real assets spanning data centres, renewable energy, housing and logistics sectors.

Amid heightened volatility in the renewables and energy transition sector, the Stonepeak Global Renewable Fund (GRF) demonstrated remarkable resilience and performance to significantly outpace its benchmarks.

Best Private Debt Manager
SeaTown Holdings | SeaTown Private Credit Fund I

As Asia's private credit market matures, SeaTown Holdings International has positioned itself as one of the region’s leading alternative investment firms, leveraging its deep expertise in both private and public markets.

Founded in Singapore and owned by Seviora, Temasek’s asset management group, SeaTown has shown a deep commitment to delivering compelling risk-adjusted returns through its conviction-driven strategies.

Judges were particularly taken by its emphasis on intangibles when it comes to operating in the region.

“It bears stressing that success in this region extends far beyond just technical competencies and robust operational infrastructure, which are essential for identifying attractive opportunities and building a scalable investment platform,” SeaTown said in its submission.

“Equally important are local market expertise, on-the-ground relationship networks, and capacity for patience. These sources of competitive advantage are not easily replicated or translated across borders.”

With over $2.3 billion in assets under management (AUM) across its private credit funds, SeaTown has demonstrated its prowess in sourcing, structuring, and executing complex deals, resulting in a track record of strong risk-adjusted returns.

The team's selective evaluation process ensured that only the most promising opportunities were pursued as it focused on delivering value for investors.

By prioritising flexible structuring and proactive risk management, judges noted that SeaTown had successfully navigated challenging market conditions, delivering attractive returns while maintaining collaborative relationships with borrowers.

Add to this its team's ability to adapt to an evolving market in Asia’s dynamic private credit landscape and SeaTown was a worthy winner in this category.

Best Private Equity Manager
Hidden Hill Capital | Hidden Hill PE RMB Fund II

Hidden Hill Capital, supported by GLP Capital Partners, has managed to carve out a prominent position as a private equity manager in Asia, overseeing a substantial $4 billion in assets under management.

With a strategic focus on modern logistics, digital supply chains, renewable energy, and related technologies, Hidden Hill has established a strong track record of driving new growth and long-term value across its portfolio companies.

Its PE RMB Fund II was a case in point.

In 2023, Hidden Hill Capital completed the final close of its second RMB-denominated pan-Asia private equity fund (RMB Fund II) at RMB8 billion ($1.1 billion) in addition to securing around $400 million in a separate account mandate from a leading Asian investor.

This success underscored Hidden Hill's ability to attract diverse support from both existing and new LPs, including insurance companies, corporate VC firms, and fund of funds.

The firm remains committed to providing value-added services to its portfolio companies, including corporate carve-outs and early-stage investments in the renewable energy sector.

Notably, Hidden Hill's VC strategy, launched in 2023, further diversified its investment approach, targeting innovative early and growth-stage companies in key sectors.

Hidden Hill Capital has, since 2018, invested in approximately 100 companies in the fields of digital supply chain and logistics technology such as modern logistics service systems and food supply chains.

The companies it has invested in include COSCO Shipping Logistics, China Southern Airlines Logistics, Ouyeel, Sany eTrucks, Farizon Auto, J&T Express, Zongteng Group, G7, Inceptio Technology, LiBiao Robot, SEER and more.

With a proven track record of identifying disruptive technologies and driving value for investors, judges felt Hidden Hill was well-positioned to navigate this dynamic and evolving market.

Best Real Estate Manager
ESR-Logos | ESR-Logos REIT

ESR-Logos REIT (E-LOG) has distinguished itself as a leading new economy-focused Asia Pacific S-REIT, showcasing excellence in portfolio management, financial resilience, and strategic foresight throughout what emerged as a tough financial 2023.

“This Singapore-listed REIT has established a robust presence in Asia,” judges said of this submission.

Judges also liked its adept execution of its "4R Strategy": recycling capital; recapitalising the balance sheet; portfolio rejuvenation; and reinforcing sponsor support to ensure sustained growth and stability in the face of adversity.

Full-year 2023 gross revenue and net property income (NPI) witnessed significant growth of 12.6% and 11.8%, respectively, standing at S$186.34 million (US$137.5 million) and S$273.2 million.

These were driven by full-year contributions from ALOG Trust after the merger in April 2022 and the acquisition of ESR Sakura Distribution Centre in October 2022.

Judges noted the fund’s swift and timely execution of a ground-breaking S$300 million equity fundraising (EFR) to recapitalise its balance sheet.

Remarkably, ELOG became the first Singapore REIT to seize a narrow window to raise capital in early FY2023, just before the collapse of several banks, causing market uncertainty.

This strategic move not only fortified E-LOG's balance sheet but also served as a proactive measure to reduce gearing.

Complemented by the divestment of 10 non-core assets aggregating S$440.6 million, the manoeuvre showcased E-LOG's commitment to financial discipline, ensuring resilience and robust balance sheet strength.

Best Multi-Asset Strategy
BOCHK Asset Management | BOCHK All Weather Global Opportunities Fund

BOCHK All Weather Global Opportunities Fund displayed rigorous risk management and astute decision-making to stand out as an easy winner in this category.

Fund inflows were mainly from Hong Kong and Macau, with around 80% of net inflows from retail clients and 20% from Hong Kong institutional clients.

The fund maintains a top-down investment framework and judges were particularly impressed by its ability to follow the arc of investments based on research-backed conviction.

Its support for Nvidia was a good example of this approach.

“For instance, we have been investing in Nvidia (NVDA US) for a long period of time,” the fund said in its submission. “Despite the deep correction of US tech stocks in 2021, we remained convinced of our conviction that Nvidia was one of the most innovative tech companies with arguably the highest moat in terms of its GPU and AI technology in the world.”

BOCHK held onto Nvidia even when it was down by as much as 58.7% year to September 2022.

“We had been gradually buying more Nvidia on weakness during the course of its corrections over 202 and had significantly added to our position in Nvidia between November 2022 and January 2023 - we believed AI technology investment-related activities should benefit Nvidia in the short to medium term.”

As a result, Nvidia became one of the largest holdings in its portfolio by early January 2023 – enough to keep any investor happy given the performance of AI-related stocks in 2024.

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