Australian hedge fund operator opens NZ shop

Listed Australian hedge fund manager HFA has begun seriously targeting the New Zealand market with a senior sales executive appointed to drive growth here.

Tuesday, August 14th 2007, 5:00AM

by David Chaplin

Ex-pat Kiwi, Al Thomson, has already begun drumming up support in New Zealand for HFA products meeting with financial planning and platform providers, including Vestar and FNZ wrap, after taking up the position in July.

Thomson said HFA would also approach stockbroking firms and private banks to distribute its products - a slightly broader approach than in Australia where the hedge fund provider deals almost exclusively with financial planning networks.

"HFA sees New Zealand as an essential and important market," he said. "The atmosphere is changing and we expect people will move towards superannuation type investing rather than property and debentures. We have some stable diversification tools to help them do that."

While he is currently based in Sydney Thomson said he would relocate to New Zealand "early in 2008".

He said initially HFA would offer its two flagship funds - the Diversified Fund and Global Long/short Fund - but also intended to launch some structured products here later in the year.

HFA provides a range of open-ended hedge funds but has also launched several capital-protected listed products under the Octane and Accelerator banners.

The group is also close to merging with US firm Lighthouse Partners in a deal worth over $700 million. HFA uses Lighthouse as the investment manager for five of its eight hedge funds and has "exclusive right to investment advice and access to Lighthouse funds in Australia and New Zealand", a recent company presentation stated.

In the HFA presentation it said the Lighthouse deal would provide an "opportunity to build on HFA's success in Australia by enhancing HFA's ability to distribute products to investors in markets outside Australia".

In Australia HFA focuses almost exclusively on the retail market and now claims over $3 billion in assets under management. While its most popular product is the HFA (Lighthouse) Diversified Fund the manager has a range of other funds including a global long/short fund, an Asian strategies fund and a credit opportunities fund.

In June HFA also revealed that its major shareholder, MFS (which owns Vestar in New Zealand), would transfer its 19% stake in the hedge fund manager to its subsidiary MFS Alternative Asset (MFSAA), which has part-ownership of two other alternative investment managers.

MFS said in a statement it was "not a natural long-term holder of its stake in HFA".

"The MFS business plan is predicated on and relies on the constant recycling of its investment capital and the growth in the quantum of assets which it manages on an ongoing basis," the group said in a statement explaining the change in HFA ownership.

Further the June statement said: "MFS has given HFA an indemnity to a limit of $5 million concerning a potential transaction. At this stage MFS does not expect any liability to accrue from such indemnity."

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