ASIA NEWS: An offer he couldn’t refuse

After an eventful couple of years at Grosvenor Fund Management, Asia head Morgan Laughlin is taking charge of a bigger player. PERE Magazine, December 2012/January 2013 issue.

After making an imprint on Grosvenor Fund Management’s (GFM) Asia business, Morgan Laughlin is about to attempt the same at Pramerica Real Estate Investors (PREI) Asia. 

The Tokyo-based veteran only joined GFM in January 2011 but in the short time since he has been credited with transforming parent company Grosvenor’s Australia platform from a proprietary investing business to part of the fund manager. He was the driving force behind the creation of its first joint venture investment management business in China, Harvest Real Estate Investors.

However, when PREI Asia’s longer serving Asia head Victoria Shigehira Sharpe was promoted to a newly-created, senior client-facing role at parent company, Pramerica Investment Management, Laughlin was approached and is understood to have considered the role “an offer he couldn’t refuse”, according to one person familiar with the situation.

The transition for both Laughlin and Sharpe is expected by March next year.

Laughlin takes the helm of a considerably larger real estate investment management platform than he led before. According to Grosvenor’s 2011 annual report, GFM’s Asia platform managed five funds and separate accounts responsible for assets with a gross value of $1.9 billion. According to PREI Asia’s website, as of June 30 this year, the firm managed gross assets of $7.2 billion – almost as much as GFM’s entire, global portfolio.

He’ll lead more than 80 professionals operating in offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo (where he will be based) and Beijing.

Laughlin might be moving to lead a bigger shop but he has had considerable experience working for large organisations during his 20 year-plus career. Before joining GFM he worked for UK bank Royal Bank of Scotland for which he was the head of real estate finance Asia pacific and before that he headed Deutsche Bank real estate and infrastructure investment manager RREEF’s Asia business, ex-Japan. 

PREI Asia will now have to share outgoing head Sharpe with Pramerica Investment Management’s other business lines and asset classes. She is likely to assist Laughlin as he continues to grow the platform but only as a point of contact for the firm’s largest institutional investors. 

She hands over a platform with both pan-Asia and country-specific investment vehicles including the S$3 billion (€1.9 billion; $2.45 billion) Pramerica AsiaRetail, a private, open-ended property fund launched following a fusion of its closed-ended, Singapore and Malaysia retail mall series. In a previous interview, Sharpe told PERE the creation of the fund was the result of a three year effort as half the fund’s investors, which wanted to exit the assets, thrashed out a compromise with the other half which wanted to keep them following the expiry of the closed-ended funds.

Laughlin will need to stay at PREI Asia for more than two years if he is going to see similar challenges through to completion and is to make his imprint once again. For Grosvenor, which is building its platform in Asia, it is time to hire a replacement. 


GLP joins the J-REIT party

Global Logistic Properties is launching a J-REIT during a buoyant time for the sector.

November was something of a milestone month for Singapore-based developer and investment manager Global Logistic Properties (GLP). In addition to expanding its activities to Brazil through a $1.45 billion transaction, the firm also launched a ¥209 billion (€2 billion; $2.6 billion) J-REIT into which it is placing almost half of its wholly-owned assets in the country – some 30 properties.