Report: Aberdeen plans China operation

By Sam Shaw

Added 22nd September 2015

Aberdeen Asset Management looks set to become the first UK fund manager to become licensed to operate in China, as a deal with Beijing authorities is expected to complete this week.

Report: Aberdeen plans China operation

Martin Gilbert, CEO

Aberdeen intends to become incorporated as a wholly foreign-owned enterprise (WFOE), whereby foreign parties can incorporate a limited liability company without the involvement of a Chinese mainland investor, according to industry reports.

The deal, said to be part of a trade mission led by Chancellor George Osborne and business secretary Sajid Javid, will see Aberdeen travel alongside other financial services organisations including Barclays, HSBC and Standard Life.

Aberdeen is expected to open an office in Shanghai, building on the group’s existing presence in the region. The proximity should give the fund manager closer access and allow easier research of companies listed on the mainland equity markets.

Aberdeen is also one of the very few global players that has an operation in Thailand.

Long underweight China

Writing in the The Telegraph last week - prior to early reports, chief executive Martin Gilbert said the recent declines suffered by Chinese investors had “vindicated” Aberdeen’s long-held house views on the country, and those of head of Asian equities Hugh Young.

“We have been underweight in China for as long as I can remember, even though it sometimes in the short term affected our funds’ performance against their benchmarks.”

He gives three main reasons: transparency, corporate governance and valuations, the latter often fuelled by “leverage and speculation rather than fundamentals”.

Largely attributed to the group’s emerging markets exposure, Aberdeen’s share price has tumbled since July. At the time of writing (21 September) shares were valued at 324.30p.

Gilbert added in his Telegraph article: “So we have chosen to gain exposure to the Chinese economy through other routes, mainly by investing in Asian and international businesses with significant interests in China. And while none of them have been immune from the sell-off in emerging market equities, we feel our holdings are on far firmer foundations than others.

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