Matthews Asia takes over key Asia Pacific mandate from Comgest

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San Francisco-based boutique Matthews Asia has taken over an investment mandate from French rival Comgest to run an Asian income strategy for closed ended UK global investment vehicle Witan Investment Trust.

The €130 million mandate, which will become effective from 20 February, will be run along the same lines as the Matthews Asia Dividend Fund, managed by Jesper Madsen (pictured) and Yu Zhang.

Euro Stars A-rated Madsen is a former manager to watch in Citywire Global magazine, and the fund has performed well over the past three years returning 20% versus the benchmark MSCI AC Asia Pacific TR USD return of 18.5%.

The Asia Pacific and Japan strategy replaces the weaker performing Comgest mandate, which was Asia Pacific ex Japan, and now gives Matthews Asia management of around 35% of the total assets of the €1.4 billion Witan investment trust.

The Matthews Asia Dividend Fund has around 60 positions and sits on an annual yield of 3.5%. It is underweight Japan and Australia, with overweight positions to Hong Kong, China and Singapore.

It is the largest dedicated Asia investment specialist in the US and has been actively investing in the region since 1991, with $20.9 billion in assets, and a 34 strong investment team investing across a range of Asia Pacific equity and bond remits.

Announcing the change, Witan said its new mandate would represent roughly 9% of the trust's portfolio and replace Comgest's Asia portfolio (around 6.5% of Witan's assets), whose remit excluded Japan.

Asian economies 'increasingly interdependent'

Andrew Bell, chief executive of Witan, said the appointment of Matthews Asia reflects the view that Asia's economies have become 'increasingly interdependent', and is part of a wider plan to bring on board more specialised, high conviction managers at Witan.

Bell explained: 'The appointment of Matthews Asia reflects our belief that Asia's economies have become increasingly interdependent and although Witan has benefited from being substantially underweight in Japan in recent years this will not always be the case.

'We therefore believe having a manager with the ability to allocate capital actively on the basis of stock-specific factors across the entire region is preferable to predetermining allocations to Japan and Asia separately.'

He added: 'Matthews' approach is to concentrate on choosing companies across the whole of the Asia Pacific region that offer attractive and growing dividend-paying characteristics.'