Lazard AM cuts Asia ex-Japan equity team

The $168 billion asset manager has cut its six-strong team in Singapore for commercial reasons, but denies it is exiting the city-state and re-affirms its commitment to the region.
Lazard AM cuts Asia ex-Japan equity team

UK fund house Lazard Asset Management has shut down the Asia ex-Japan equity strategy it had run in Singapore, but says it will remain in the city-state and is committed to the region.

It is understood there had been six people in the Singapore-based equity team led by portfolio manager Manish Singhai.

“The decision was taken from a commercial point of view based on the outlook for the asset class and the specific strategy,” a Lazard AM spokesperson told AsianInvestor. “It was not to do with performance of the team, more with the outlook as we see it in terms of gaining assets in that space.”

The spokesperson said there would be no disruption to client relationships in the region as a result of the closure. While it was backed by seed capital, the fundamental, bottom-up strategy had managed no institutional client money.

The firm continues to run an Asia ex-Japan strategy, the Lazard Asia ex-Japan Advantage Strategy, out of the US.

But the spokesperson was quick to quash rumours that Lazard AM was withdrawing from the region, stressing that it would continue to run business development, client servicing and legal/compliance functions from its office in Singapore.

The firm will also continue to support its emerging income fund with a portfolio management presence in the city-state. This emerging-market debt strategy invests in short-maturity bonds and takes positions across EM currencies; it has been run out of New York since the 1990s.

“We are not closing the office or withdrawing from Singapore,” the spokesperson stated. “We are and remain committed to Asia.”

Lazard AM retains independent businesses in Seoul and Tokyo that run equity strategies for Korean and Japanese clients, respectively, and an asset management business in Australia. It also manages its Asia ex-Japan Equity Advantage strategy out of the US using a systematic quantitative approach. 

Lazard’s investment banking business is separate and also continues to operate out of Singapore.

Lazard AM saw its AUM among clients in Asia Pacific fall -18% in dollar terms to $19.5 billion in the year to end-September 2015, according to AsianInvestor’s AI100 research, as reported. This list of the top 100 managers by assets sourced from Asia Pacific will be published in full in the forthcoming March magazine edition of AsianInvestor.

The Lazard spokesperson pointed out that currency depreciation was a big factor in the drop, with Australia a dominant part of its Asia-Pacific business in terms of distribution of assets. The Australian dollar sank 20% against the US dollar over the year to end-September 2015, by Bloomberg data.

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