Hong Kong billionaire Richard Li seeks to sell asset manager PineBridge -sources

reuters | February 2, 2024

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By Selena Li and Kane Wu

HONG KONG (Reuters) -Hong Kong investment firm Pacific Century Group (PCG), founded by billionaire Richard Li, is seeking to sell its majority stake in asset manager PineBridge Investments, according to four people with knowledge of the matter and a deal document seen by Reuters.

PCG has hired JPMorgan to run the sales process and has held preliminary discussions with a number of financial institutions, said two of the sources. All of the sources declined to be named because the information is confidential.

PineBridge managed assets worth about $157 billion at the end of 2023, according to its website.

Li’s PCG acquired the New York-headquartered business from U.S. insurer American International Group in 2010 for $277 million, at a time when it managed $87.3 billion of assets.

PineBridge and JPMorgan declined to comment.

A spokesperson for PCG on Friday declined to comment on its move to offloading a stake in PineBridge at the group level.

However, the spokesperson added PCG doesn’t plan to sell stakes in PineBridge’s joint venture with Huatai in China and PCG remains committed to the market.

A profitable China joint venture, Huatai-PineBridge Fund Management accounted for about one-third of the parent’s total assets under management, according to the sales document.

The divestment, if successful, would see PCG exit from a fund house that has had mixed financial results in recent years amid heightened market volatility and intense competition in the asset management business.

Close to 60% of PineBridge’s portfolio exposure is to the Asia-Pacific region, according to the deal document shared with potential bidders. Rising interest rates and geopolitical tensions have roiled regional asset prices.

PineBridge managed about 25% of the assets of Hong Kong-based FWD, an insurance business owned by PCG, as of end-September, according to the sale document.

The asset manager swung to a loss of $78 million in 2022 from a $15 million profit the prior year and a net loss of $45 million in 2020, according to the document.

In 2023, the asset manager’s net profit after tax was over $40 million, according to one of the sources. PCG declined to comment on the financial performance.

PineBridge has more than 700 employees across 25 offices, including 230 investment professionals.

While PCG has a controlling stake in PineBridge and is looking to exit all of its holding, the asset manager’s management, employees and advisers together hold small minority interests.

PCG’s other businesses include FWD, which has failed three times to float its shares, telecom and media group PCCW, Hong Kong 5G provider HKT, and property developer Pacific Century Premium Developments.

FWD’s latest application to list in Hong Kong expired in September, filings from Hong Kong bourse showed. FWD declined to comment.

(Reporting by Selena Li and Kane Wu; editing by Jamie Freed and David Evans)