Ex-ADIA executive Ho launches China start-up

Pius Ho, a former senior portfolio manager at the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, has launched Moonbridge Capital, a real estate investment management business aiming to differentiate itself as an operating partner.

The former acting head of Asia real estate at the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority has left to launch a China-focused real estate investment management and development business.

Pius Ho, who was a senior portfolio manager at the giant sovereign wealth fund, left in January after when he launched Moonbridge Capital as a strategic operating partner for institutional investors seeking direct real estate exposure in Asia.

Ho told PERE Moonbridge would initially focus on two segments of the China real estate development world, namely affordable residential real estate and prime offices. Describing the former as a short-term strategy and the latter as a mid-to-long term strategy, he said: “We think the demand for these runs in parallel with what is happening in the Chinese economy.”

“First time home buyers in China are now thinking about quality, design, specification, green space and amenities. We think a large segment of people are reaching that state of mind because of increases in household income,” Ho said on the residential strategy, adding that Moonbridge would seek to be either a development manager or the developer itself on projects.

Ho said that he had not determined yet what sort of investment vehicle structures Moonbridge would adopt and that he and his initial team of seven staff are currently canvassing views from the institutional investor community with a view to launching a product conducive to serving a critical mass.

He said: “I think we’ll have a blend of investors. Some investors might want to be less involved, others already have offices here in Hong Kong. It will be interesting to see how we can structure something that caters for most.”

Indeed, Ho will shortly be visiting investors in the US, Europe, Singapore and Korea with that mission in mind. Meanwhile, he said Moonbridge’s start-up costs were being met by a high net worth family from Hong Kong. Once the firm’s maiden investment vehicle is structured, it is possible the family would co-invest in transactions, to the tune of between 3 percent and 5 percent, although no specific agreement had been reached.

Ho has also hit the recruitment trail for Moonbridge too as he looks to fill the firm’s investment committee. The committee currently has four people identified but is hoping to add two more members, namely a chief operating officer or chief financial officer and a chief development officer. Further hires of acquisitions and development staff should happen later.

Before ADIA, Ho worked for Citi Property Investors, the private equity real estate business of Citigroup, although he left for the sovereign wealth fund prior to its sale in 2010 to Apollo Global Management. He also worked previously for LaSalle Investment Management and Starwood Capital.