Khoo resigns as AXA shifts Asia HQ to Tokyo – Exclusive

The long-serving Asia head of the real assets investment manager is set to leave after the firm’s decision to shift its regional hub from Singapore to Tokyo.  

AXA Investment Managers – Real Assets (AXA IM – Real Assets), the real estate subsidiary of the French insurance giant AXA, is moving its Asia Pacific headquarters from Singapore to Tokyo.

Following the decision to close the Singapore office – the regional hub for the firm’s real assets operations since 2006 – Frank Khoo, the long-serving global head of Asia, has resigned.

Khoo joined AXA IM- Real Assets in 2008 to build the group’s presence in Asia, and has since then overseen all investment, asset management and capital raising activities in the region.

The switch in regional hubs is to more efficiently support the firm’s investments in Japan, one of its two core investment markets alongside Australia, according to Laurent Lavergne, head of separate accounts at AXA IM – Real Assets, who is also in charge of the firm’s international business development.

Speaking to PERE in an exclusive interview he said: “We have been growing AXA IM – Real Assets’ presence in the Asia Pacific region in recent years, with the establishment of a new office in Seoul and our acquisition and integration of Eureka – Real Assets in Australia in 2016. As a result of this and the opportunities we are seeing in the market, we have made the decision to relocate our Asia Pacific hub, which comprises four people, to Tokyo, where we have had a presence since 2006 and where we have a strong track record.

“This relocation allows us to better maximize our resources in the region, while reflecting a shift in requirements. It will not impact the service to our Singaporean clients receive, as the relationships will continue to be managed by our existing Paris, London or Asia Pacific teams in the regions where they have invested with us.”

understands that the relocation process is still ongoing, and so it is unclear whether the three people in the Singapore investment team, apart from Khoo, will move to Tokyo. AXA IM – Real Assets currently has a team of five people in Japan.

Commenting on Khoo’s departure, Lavergne said: As a result of this decision and reflecting his desire to remain in Singapore, Frank Khoo has decided to leave the company. We would like to thank him for his outstanding contribution in establishing and developing our business in Asia Pacific over the past nine years and wish him all the best in his future endeavours. An announcement for his replacement will be made in due course.”

Over the years, Khoo has led AXA IM – Real Assets to grow its assets under management (AUM) in Asia Pacific to €3.9 billion. The bulk of that growth was achieved in September last year when the firm acquired Eureka Funds Management, a Sydney-based independent real estate fund and investment manager with more than A$5 billion in AUM. The takeover of one of Australia’s biggest private real estate investment managers bolstered AXA IM – Real Assets’ regional presence, which prior to the acquisition consisted of €550 million in AUM.

In its Japanese platform, the firm operated a Tokyo Office Property Fund (TOP), a closed-ended vehicle that was invested in mid-sized office properties in Tokyo. Last October, the fund’s ¥20 billion ($192 million; €170 million) portfolio was liquidated, generating an internal rate of return of 25 percent, according to PERE reports. In January, the firm also appointed Yoshihiko Hayafuji as head of Japan. Hayafuji was previously director of fund management at Grosvenor’s Japan operations.

AXA Investment Managers, the parent company of AXA IM – Real Assets, will continue to remain present in Singapore, where it has operated an office since 1990.