ASIA NEWS: Ins and outs at Pramerica

Pramerica Real Estate Investors has lost investment professionals in Asia, but CEO Victoria Sharpe insists the firm is growing in the region nonetheless. PERE Magazine July/August 2011 issue.

Pramerica Real Estate Investors has lost a trio of investment professionals from its platform in Asia, including its managing director for greater China, Charles Lam.

PERE has learned that Lam has tendered his resignation and will leave in August, while acquisitions vice presidents for Korea and Asia ex-Japan Joji Thomas and Alex Tse already have departed. As could be imaged, their departures have prompted certain rival GPs to question Pramerica’s resolve in the region. “I’m not sure why they’d let this happen,” one GP said.

For its part, Pramerica was not concerned when contacted. Indeed, Victoria Sharpe, chief executive officer for Asia, attributed the departures to part of the firm’s natural evolution. “Some of the recent personnel exits really are the residual impact of the positive things we are doing for our business,” she said. “Certain people made personal reasons to leave.”

Indeed, Sharpe told PERE that the firm actually has been a net hirer over the past 14 months, as Pramerica has grown from essentially being a Singapore operation to a platform with offices in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Beijing, as well as newly-created representative posts in Korea and Australia, in response to its investors’ needs.

According to Sharpe, Pramerica recently has hired for a raft of positions, including managing directors to develop its Japanese, Korean and Australian capabilities, as well as a number of junior roles to augment its investing capabilities in the region. She revealed that the firm planned on announcing the appointments within the next 60 days, as the ‘gardening leave’ of certain hires was preventing any public notice sooner. “You’re catching us in a gap period,” she admitted. “This is the result of 14 months of strategic hires owing to the business we feel is right in front of us.”

In addition to increasing headcount, PERE understands that a pan-Asia opportunity fund is in the offing.  That fund would be a follow-up vehicle to 2002’s $1 billion fund and 2006’s $1.5 billion fund.  Sharpe, however, would not be drawn on capital-raising matters.

 Pramerica, which managed $6.7 billion in gross assets on behalf of its existing funds as of December 2010, may be shedding some people, but it remains keen to present a picture of growth in Asia.