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ASIA NEWS: Closer to the action

As one global head of a private equity real estate platform relocated from Asia this summer, another relocated to the region.

The return of LaSalle Investment Management global chief executive Jeff Jacobson from Singapore to Chicago had less to do with strategy than personal reasons. The relocation of Olivier de Poulpiquet, co-chief executive officer and co-chief investment officer at Morgan Stanley Real Estate Investing (MSREI), on the other hand, was definitely focused on the former.

de Poulpiquet was unavailable for comment, but a spokesman at MSREI said the move was motivated by having one of the firm’s most senior people “closer to the action.” As of 1 September, the Frenchman will lead the $43.5 billion division, in conjunction with New York-based co-chief executive and co-chief investment officer John Klopp, from Morgan Stanley’s Singapore office.

de Poulpiquet’s move is expected to have no impact on the roles of Klopp or MSREI’s Asia head, Hoke Slaughter. “Rather than being based in London and spending time in Asia, he’ll be based in Singapore and spending lots of time in Europe,” the spokesman told

de Poulpiquet remains responsible for MSREI’s European exploits, despite deputy Europe head Brian Niles’ subsequent promotion to head, but the noise from MSREI is the move underlines its longstanding commitment to Asia and belief in the investment opportunities the region is expected to produce.

Of the $175.9 billion in acquisitions executed by the platform since its inception in 1991, just $47.4 billion, or 27 percent, have been in Asia. Considered alongside the firm’s current geographical exposure, the omens suggest that percentage should change in the future. As of 31 March, MSREI’s assets under management were $16.1 billion, or 37 percent, in Asia, more than the $14.5 billion (33 percent) in the US or the $12.9 billion (30 percent) in Europe.

That is despite being a net seller in Asia of late. According to research by Real Capital Analytics, Morgan Stanley, including MSREI, sold $5.1 billion of real estate over the past 12 months – the highest amount by a private equity real estate firm and the fourth highest in the world overall. In contrast, the firm bought relatively little.

“In general, [MSREI] recently has been a seller of properties in the region from funds coming to an end,” the spokesman said. “With G7 being invested at the moment, the focus is now more on acquisitions.” G7, the colloquial name for Morgan Stanley Real Estate Fund VII Global, is the firm’s latest opportunity fund, which closed on $4.7 billion last May.

de Poulpiquet will play a role in determining how the Asia component of the vehicle is invested, although his residency in Singapore also should position him well to oversee the structuring and implementation of any forthcoming Asia-specific investment vehicles as well.

Simon Treacy, group chief executive officer of Asia- and Europe-focused rival MGPA, noted: “Singapore is a lot more progressive in terms of tax treaties and structuring. Setting up a fund in Singapore is definitely a preferred option, as the government is friendly, cooperative and open here.”