The real estate X factor

With Asia fundraising showing no signs of slowing, private equity real estate firms are boosting their manpower to manage the capital being dedicated to the East.

Recent events on Wall Street have triggered one of the largest talent feeding frenzies in history. When it comes to Asian private equity real estate, though, that feeding frenzy is par for the course as fund managers rush to establish or expand their operations in the region.

Over the summer there was a slew of office openings and appointments in Asia. The most notable was the opening of The Blackstone Group's first office in mainland China (Beijing), providing some insight into the New York-based firm's priorities for the country, and Asia.

The hiring trend seen over the summer though hasn't diminished, with private equity real estate firms continuing to rapidly expand their operations in Asia. CBRE Investors and Axa Real Estate Investment Managers have been two of the latest firms to boost their exposure to the region, appointing former executives from AIG and Pacific Star respectively.

In naming former AIG real estate and Pimco professional Jack Hsu as director of its investor services team based in Hong Kong, CBRE said it was intending to actively expand its capital raising operations in China, Singapore and Taiwan, in particular. Hsu was formerly director of AIG's mortgage lending and real estate business and previously worked for investment management firm Pimco, helping launch their Tokyo office.

The hire will be CBRE Investors first direct appointment in mainland Asia for its investor relations team, having previously only had a presence in Australia, according to the firm's website. The firm is currently investing its Strategic Partners US 5 fund, which closed in May on $2.1 billion.

Paris-based fund manager, Axa Real Estate, meanwhile has hired former Pacific Star dealmaker Frank Khoo to lead its efforts from its new Asia headquarters in Singapore. Since entering Asia 18 months ago, Axa has committed almost 25 percent of the $2 billion raised from investors to Asia, according to the firm.

Pierre Vaquier, Axa chief executive, said in a statement Asia was becoming a strategic destination for real estate investors. Khoo was previously senior vice president with Singapore-based real estate investor Pacific Star Fund Management.

And it's not just fund managers who are heading East, Citco Real Estate Investment Fund Services is relocating its London-based managing director Luc Hollman to Singapore to expand the fund administration company's business in Asia.

With fundraising for Asia-dedicated real estate funds showing no sign of abating (see p. 24), few in the industry expect the trend to slowdown any time soon.