ASIA NEWS: Leaving on a high

Andie Kang leaves Korea’s preeminent state investor, the National Pension Service (NPS) of Korea on April 6. He does so safe in the knowledge he has led the $430 billion institution into becoming one of the world’s most active private real estate investors since the global financial crisis.

Indeed, with Kang as global head of real estate, NPS has grown an international real estate portfolio valued today at $11 billion, the vast majority of the assets of which were acquired in the last five years. 

Kang will be remembered most for his work during that time in which he led a number of high profile direct investments. These included 8 Canada Square in London’s Canary Wharf which NPS acquired for £772.5 million (€1.049 billion; $1.15 billion) in 2009 when global markets where on their knees and sold at the end of last year for more than £1.1 billion. 

That deal proved onlookers that presumed Asian state investors would not trade core assets once purchased wrong.
Other examples of notable direct investments during Kang’s tenure include: the $480 million purchase of BG Group Place in April 2013 and the €570 million capture of the Sony Center in Berlin in May 2010.

Under Kang’s watch, NPS also was among the first state investors to seek assets at the higher end of the risk and return spectrum when in 2010 it awarded more than $1.2 billion of indirect investment mandates to investment managers worldwide for value-added and opportunistic strategies. Firms to have benefited from this then-contrarian strategy were Pramerica Real Estate Investors, Rockspring Property Investment Managers, The Carlyle Group, Invesco Real Estate. Advisory firm The Townsend Group also was heavily backed.

A replacement global head is expected to be determined by NPS after Kang’s departure. Although no decision has been officially made, there was mounting speculation that the hire would be internal and from NPS’ 10-strong real estate team. One of Kang’s lieutenants, Scott Kim, has been mooted as a candidate for the role. 

NPS’ loss will be Seoul-based real estate investment manager IGIS Asset Management’s gain as Kang joins the firm on April 20 as co-chief executive officer. Replacing outgoing co-CEO Dai Young Kim, Kang will jointly lead IGIS with the firm’s other co-CEO Kab Joo Cho. He will chiefly be responsible for expanding the firm’s global exposure, something he has ample experience doing thanks to his time with NPS.

At IGIS, Kang will also seek to grow the firm’s exposure to international investors, introducing them to deals in Korea. The majority of the firm’s $6.2 billion of assets under management are in Korea.