QIC Talks Up Quantitative Investment in Asian Markets

According to QIC, the institutional investment manager, “big gains” can be made with quantitative investment strategies in Asian emerging markets.

“Emerging markets have been the focus of plenty of attention in the past few years; however, for a host of reasons investing in them has been a hit-and-miss affair,” explained QIC Quantitative Management managing director Michiel Swaak. “But more recently the situation has changed. Better, more consistent accounting standards mean the quality of data coming out of Asian markets has improved dramatically, providing the raw material required to establish meaningful models and identify opportunities that are most likely to deliver consistent alpha for investors.”

QIC first launched its quantitative Asia Pacific Market Neutral Fund in the summer of 2009, which has since proved especially lucrative.

 “We firmly believe that quant players have the jump on the market for a number of reasons. In our case, in addition to our extensive research and analysis capability, our team has many years of dedicated Asian experience,” Swaak said. “We’ve used that to develop a systematic trading process, which captures the relevant data as the markets continue to evolve, then feeds it into our flexible portfolio management infrastructure.”

QIC’s report states that the fund applies “comprehensive risk controls to all aspects of the portfolio, including net, gross, country, single-stock, currency, beta and risk factor exposures” in order to reach market neutrality.

“We believe our approach forms the blueprint for successful alpha investing in Asia, and we’re pleased to be able to offer an Australian dollar-denominated investment to Australian clients while we still retain the first-mover advantage,” Swaak said.

Firms Lured by East Java’s Infrastructure

East Java has been attracting investments as a result of its good infrastructure. The country’s economy grew more than 7% in last year’s third quarter, with two commercial and four pioneer airports.

Now, ten Korean and Japanese companies are relocating their plants from Southeast Asia to East Java, pulled in by the quality of its infrastructure. The firms deal in labor-based industries including furniture, footwear, industrial waste management and fertilizer.

Chairman of East Java’s Investment Coordinating Board (BKPMD) Warno Harisasono welcomed the newcomers and their plans.

“They earlier had their plants in the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam,” he said. “Now we will encourage those firms to realize their investment in middle parts of East Java, such as Madiun, Mojokerto, Kertosono and Jombang, as trans-Java toll roads, slated to be built in 2012, will pass through the areas.”

According to government data, foreign investment in East Java reached $4.02 billion last yearly, double the amount listed in 2010.

Blackstone Sees China as Investment Hotspot for 2012

The Asia-Pacific leader of Blackstone Group L.P. recently announced that the firm views China and Southeast Asia as the top two hot spots for Asian investments next year.

“Certainly China will remain a core focus for us. We are long-term very bullish about China,’ said Michael Chae. “Southeast Asia, and Indonesia in particular, we also think it quite interesting.”

He went on the add that Asia is still strongly tied with the West, and that volatility in both global and Asian markets is impacting investment moves now, and will continue to do so throughout 2012.

“There’s an above-average level of uncertainty around macro conditions in this region and globally, which makes it a really intellectually interesting time to be alive and to be investing,” Chae said.

Investments in growth markets such as China focuses on consumption, he said. Blackstone, therefore, will put an emphasis on consumer retail, healthcare and healthcare products, leisure and pharmaceuticals.

“In China and some of the other emerging markets in Asia, this is sort of a truism by now for investors, domestic consumption growth, growth of the middle class and urbanization themes,” he said.

Yahoo In Talks to Sell Asian Shares

Yahoo, a major U.S.-based internet company, may sell a significant amount of its Asian investments. According to inside sources, the plan can put $17 billion on the holdings, putting the value of the Asian stakes at more than the entire company’s worth as of September.

The transaction will be discussed at a board meeting later today, as part of an intensive review of the company following the departure of former chief executive Carol Bartz.

One source, who is directly involved in discussions, has revealed that valuations are still unclear, and that so far offers have fallen short of $17 billion. Another source added that whether Yahoo executives choose this option or not, the deal will take at least three weeks to close.

Reports have stated that Yahoo’s primary negotiations are related to stakes in Yahoo Japan, as well as Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce group. Yahoo’s partners in Asia, Alibaba and Softbank, made the initial offer to buy back the 40% stake in Alibab and the 35% in Yahoo Japan this past October. Today’s discussions will focus on Yahoo keeping a 15% share in Alibaba for future gains in China, with all remaining holdings to be sold.

Thailand Remains Popular Investment Focus

World Bank country director Annette Dixon stated that Thailand is still an investment hotspot at a press conference this week.

“Globally and regionally, Thailand remains an attractive investment destination. We won’t expect a lot of business to relocate,” she said, adding that the government should work to support the flood recovery efforts as opposed to populist policies.

The Bank of Thailand has been urged to reduce the policy rate to strengthen the economy in the past. Dixon said that given the high volatility of the world’s economy, Thailand “should be extremely prudent.”

Ekaterina Vostroknutova, a senior economist for East Asia and the Pacific region, explained that developing countries in the sector are currently preoccupied with growth, and have put less focus on inflation, thus ignoring policy rates.

“Central banks in Asia are waiting to see how things unfold,” she said.

China Air Gets Bond Offering from US Export-Import Bank

China Air, China’s national flag carrier, has accepted a bond offering guaranteed by the US Export-Import-Bank, or US-Exim.

The deal, worth $135.31 million, brings into play a new capital market financing solution to airline companies in Asia-Pacific. All gains from the transaction will be put towards refinancing a financial lease structure which was used to purchase a new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft by Air China.

“We are glad to be able to further develop and explore a wider source of funding,” said Jingjing Yao of Air China’s finance department. “The notes offered us a relatively low funding cost as the coupon is the lowest when comparing to transactions with equivalent average life since the product began in October 2009.”

The notes, due in 2023, are priced at a coupon of mid-swap rate, in addition to 105bp alongside market expectations. Eight investors have placed orders, reaching a total of $142 million.

Asia Stocks Fall as Crisis in Europe and US Heightens

As the euro falls further against the dollar, Asian stocks slip as well. Mounting concerns of a new United States recession and the debt crisis in Europe have resulted in investors selling riskier assets.

Employment data in the US last week revealed that no jobs were created last month, for the first time in nearly a year.

“Even if you take out the effect from the Verizon strike, it is still a lousy number and people are concerned that growth is not there anymore,” Dominic Schnider of Singapore’s UBS Wealth Management said.

In the meantime, Europe now faces numerous political and legal trials which can have a damaging effect on the country’s already struggling economy.

“In this atmosphere, foreign investors are likely to remain risk-adverse and inactive,” explained Mitsushige Akino of Ichiyoshi Investment Management in Tokyo.

Tokyo’s Nikkei share average .N225 dropped 2%, and MSCI’s broadcast index of Asia Pacific shares beyond Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS dropped 2.6%, leaving it more than 17% below April’s high. The sectors hit the hardest were energy and materials.

Morgan Stanley’s Growth Estimate for Asia Drops as Inflation Increases

Like many other financial firms, Morgan Stanley has noted the withdrawal of international investors from stocks in Asia as the economies in the region begin to falter.

One example of this is South Korea, as the won continues to decrease in value. Morgan Stanley’s growth estimate for the nation has been lowered from 4% to 3.6%, while Deutsche Bank AG has lowered its expectations for China’s expansion as well, claiming that the economic crisis throughout the rest of the world will lessen the demand for Asian exports.

“Reported downgrades of economic forecasts reduced appetite for regional assets,” explained Lee Jin III of Hana Bank. “Stock market declines affected Asian currencies including the won.”

Finance Minister Bahk Jae Wan has confirmed that inflation issues continue to plague South Korea and that the government plans to use “all possible” measures in an effort to stabilize prices. For example, the Bank of Korea left interest rates unchanged for a second month in a row, following three major increases this year.

China Pledges Millions to Horn of Africa and Sri Lankan Port

Yesterday, China’s Premier Wen Jiabao promised to put $55.3 million towards food aid in African countries, as they suffer from one of their worst droughts in over a decade.

The offer was made during a meeting with Wen’s Ethiopian counterpart, Meles Zenawi, in Beijing, and the aid wilol be distributed throughout a number of countries in the Horn of Africa. The new donation comes in addition to the $14 million promised last month.

China has been keen on contributing to Africa recently, and China- Africa trade has climbed by 40% over one year, reaching $126.9 billion. Chinese companies have taken a particular interest in African mining, agriculture, construction and forestry.

China is also rapidly developing its trade ties with other countries as well, becoming more involved with India and South Asian countries such as Sri Lanka.

China Merchants Group LTD, one of the primary investment firms in the country, recently invested $500 million in a container port there.

“The Colombo South Container terminal is CMG’s largest investment project overseas,’ Fu Yuning of CMG said. He added that the port will have an annual throughput of 2.4 million 20-foot equivalent units once it is opened. An agreement states that China Merchants Holdings International will manage the facility for 35 years.

“We are aiming to expand business opportunities in South Asia and East Africa through the establishment of the new facility, which will anchor the port of Colombo’s position as a transshipment hub in South Asia,” said Hu Jianhua of CMHI. “We’re also targeting synergy between our home port and Sri Lanka and South Asia at large.”

Yuan Strengthens, But Asian Stocks Plunge

For the first time in seventeen years the yuan has surpassed 6.4 per dollar, thanks to the Federal Reserve’s efforts to keep interest rates low. According to the International Monetary Fund, the stronger yuan will help governments reduce inflation and rebalance the nation’s development, as well as stabilize the global economy.

“The inflation and trade data, together with the Fed’s policy to maintain extremely low interest rates, have fueled faster appreciation,” explained Banny Lam of CCB International Securities in Hong Kong. “Strong economic growth, supported by the latest export figures, also provides investors with confidence to buy the yuan in these turbulent times.”

However, the European debt crisis has had a negative effect on the positive turns in Asia. In countries such as Japan, stocks have suffered severe losses. Mazda Motor Corp, the Japanese carmaker, is one of many companies highly dependent on Europe. Mazda has slumped 4.3 percent, while Canon Inc., Nikon Corp. and numerous others have met similar fates.

“As Europe’s debt crisis spreads, concern is mounting about damage to the financial system,” explains Mitsushige Akino at Ichiyoshi Investment Management Co. “We may slip back into a global equity slump.”