ASIA NEWS: Operator over allocator

It is telling that the founder of Moonbridge Capital, a new China-focused real estate investment management firm, is positioning itself as an operating partner right from the start.

That is because, until January, the firm’s founder, Pius Ho, served as joint acting head of Asia real estate at the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), a sovereign wealth fund that has made no secret of its desire to take more direct and controlling positions in the real estate investments it undertakes.

Ho believes the old ‘allocator’ model has become outmoded and that it is important to offer investors a partner that can manage the risks inherent in investing in Chinese developments. “The thought process behind Moonbridge really started through my experiences with ADIA,” he said. “There, we identified the need to be more than capital allocators in this environment.”

Ho added: “The real winners for ADIA were those able to manage the whole process internally, and that’s the approach Moonbridge should be taking.”

It is early days for Hong Kong-based Moonbridge with regards to launching an investment vehicle. Indeed, Ho and his seven-strong team just started canvassing opinions last month from prospective investors in Europe, the US, Singapore and Korea ahead of formalising plans to raise capital. In the meantime, the firm’s costs are being covered by an undisclosed Hong Kong-based high-net-worth family, which may become a co-investment partner at a later stage.

Whatever the investment vehicle ultimately looks like, Moonbridge already has determined the property types with which to engage, namely affordable residential and premium offices. In both instances, Ho expects his firm to play either a developer or development manager role, and that approach, he believes, should garner interest from institutional capital sources.