November 15, 2017 / 1:33 PM / a year ago

Manulife AM launches wholly-owned investment business in Shanghai

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Canadian asset manager Manulife Asset Management on Wednesday launched a wholly-owned investment business in Shanghai and welcomed Beijing’s steps to raise limits on foreign ownership in the finance sector.

Last Friday, China said it planned to increase the limit on foreign ownership in joint-venture firms involved in the futures, securities and mutual funds business to 51 percent from the current 49 percent. And this restriction will be scrapped completely in three years.

Manulife senior managing director James Chen said Manulife Asset Management was “very excited” about Beijing’s plans to allow foreign control in a China mutual fund company.

“Of course we like this flexibility (of foreign ownership),” Chen, Asia head of institutional business, told reporters.

“However, for us, we have an extremely good relationship with TEDA ... and we will continue to maintain this extremely good working relationship,” Chen said, referring to the Chinese partner of its 49 percent-owned Chinese JV, Manulife TEDA Fund Management Co.

Manulife Asset Management, part of Canadian insurer Manulife, said the Shanghai business, set up for cross-border investments, represented “the latest piece of the puzzle to Manulife’s China roadmap”, which already includes the mutual fund JV, and a life insurance venture.

Manulife Asset Management said that unlike TEDA, which targets mainly retail investors, its new subsidiary, Manulife Investment (Shanghai), will focus on Chinese institutions and wealthy individuals seeking to invest overseas, in both public and private assets.

For investors looking to invest in China (inbound investments), Manulife will focus on striking co-investment deals with partners in commercial real estate and infrastructure areas.

A growing number of foreign asset managers, including Fidelity, UBS Asset Management, Aberdeen Asset Management, Bridgewater Associates and Vanguard have recently set up wholly foreign-owned enterprises in China, competing for a share of the country’s asset management market, which Manulife estimates will reach $10 trillion by 2021.

Reporting by Samuel Shen and John Ruwitch. Editing by Jane Merriman

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