Primary Regulatory and Business Considerations When Opening a Hedge Fund Management Company Office in Asia (Part One of Four)

Over the past 24 months, many articles have been written about global hedge fund managers expanding into Asia.  Indeed, with global markets continuing to experience volatility and Western governments facing significant challenges, many are looking East.  In the current environment, there are many reasons why a U.S.- or European-based manager may choose to open an office or offices in Asia, including, among other things, access to an abundance of Asian investment opportunities and favorable regulatory treatment in certain Asian jurisdictions.  See “AsiaHedge Study Finds That a Growing Proportion of Hedge Funds with Asia-Focused Strategies are Managed from Asia,” Hedge Fund Law Report, Vol. 4, No. 36 (Oct. 13, 2011).  Establishing an office in Asia can also facilitate tax-efficient deployment of certain Asia-focused investment strategies.  For these and other reasons, many international hedge fund managers have established satellite offices in Asia.  Before embarking on this venture, however, a manager should carefully evaluate the host of considerations critical to determining whether and how to accomplish this task.  Hong Kong and Singapore remain the two most common destinations for offices in Asia; Mumbai, Beijing and Sydney are also home to fund managers, but generally host country-specific strategies.  In this guest article, Maria Gabriela Bianchini, founder of Optionality Consulting, a Singapore-based consulting firm specializing in assisting hedge funds with regulatory and operational issues, provides a roadmap for opening up a subsidiary office in Hong Kong or Singapore.  In particular, Bianchini discusses the impact of the following factors, among others, in determining whether to open an office in Hong Kong or Singapore: composition of the manager’s portfolio; tax treaty status in light of the manager’s investment strategies; whether the purpose of the office is investment or marketing; licensing and regulatory issues; number of people in the office; whether the manager focuses on fixed income, equities, illiquid assets or other strategies; access to deal and information flow; access to talent; and personal decisions (such as housing, schools for children and related considerations).  This article is the first in a four-part series by Bianchini to be published in the Hedge Fund Law Report.  Part two will discuss practical considerations and guidance with respect to opening an office in Singapore and Hong Kong, Part three will discuss the changing regulatory landscape affecting managers in Singapore and Part four will conclude with a discussion of Hong Kong.

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