ASIA NEWS: An open and shut case

After a period of senior personnel instability, Pramerica Real Estate Investors (PREI) Asia, the Asian arm of the real estate investment management business of US financial services giant Prudential Financial, is laying the foundations for a more stable future.

In March, PREI Asia, which is responsible for $4.7 billion of the real estate arm’s $36 billion in assets under management worldwide, hired Morgan Laughlin as Asia head from London-based fund manager Grosvenor Fund Management. He replaced long-standing incumbent Victoria Sharpe, who moved to a larger investor-facing role at Pramerica Investment Management. 

In the months that followed, PREI Asia has experienced something of a makeover, most notably in China. Last month, PERE learned that the firm’s Beijing office was to be closed and its approximately 10 staffers would be released. Among those slated to depart was China head Jason Chew, who was placed in charge of the office in 2010.

One PREI Asia insider described the changes as part of an effort by the firm to “look the same around the world,” with regional centers making major decisions versus “boutiques in each region.” This centralization of 
PREI Asia is one way the firm believes it can better channel its investors’ capital into the region. “We could do it before,” the source said, “but not in so elegant a structure.” 

With PREI Asia’s China strategy to be coordinated from Hong Kong, Laughlin has set about hiring executives familiar to him. Last month, the firm hired Eryck Su, Laughlin’s former colleague at both RREEF and Gros-venor Fund Management, who has been appointed chief investment officer for the entire Asia-Pacific region.

In an announcement on Su’s appointment, Laughlin said: “I’m delighted that Eryck has joined Pramerica’s Asia-Pacific business. He brings a range of debt and equity investing experience that will expand our team’s ability to build strong partnerships in the region and find the best possible investment opportunities for our clients around the world.”

On Laughlin’s watch, PREI is expecting the doors of its Asia business to stop swinging. Although Sharpe has stayed within the Pramerica family, in the past two years, the Asia business has lost such senior team members as Chew’s predecessor, Charles Lam, and Joji Thomas and Alex Tse, acquisitions executives for Korea and Asia ex-Japan, respectively. 

Meanwhile, Roman Krygier, head of Japan, left PREI Asia in October. His duties have fallen to Koichiro Maeda, who was promoted after joining in September from Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities, the securities-focused joint venture between Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and US investment bank Morgan Stanley.

There are big things expected of Laughlin, as PREI Asia has reiterated its ambition to grow in the region. The announcement of Laughlin’s hire talked about “expanding the business” and “offering the firm’s investors strong investment opportunities in the region,” as well as offering its “Asian investors access to investments around the world.” Indeed, there will be plenty for Laughlin and the new-look business to do.