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Cooper closes Asia fund as PM exits

Cooper Investors has shuttered the retail and wholesale classes of its Asian Equities Fund following the resignation of portfolio manager Qiao Ma.

It’s the first fund that Cooper has closed in its 21 year history, with director and CIO Peter Cooper describing the decision as a “painful and humbling one, not taken lightly” in a letter to investors.

“At both a firm and personal level I am deeply disappointed that CI has been unable to build the team required to deliver on our ambitions with our Asian ex Japan strategy,” Cooper wrote. “… We are deeply committed to investing in Asia by focusing on the CI specialty and institutional funds which continue to have material  exposure to Asia including India and Japan.

“We will continue to apply the proprietorial CI Way (sic) of investing and deploy further resources to the research and the pursuit of Asian stock opportunities.”

Equity Trustees, the responsible entity for the fund, anticipates it will be wound up on or around March 1 2023. Like other fund managers trying to stay competitive as insto money is pulled in-house, Cooper has been pushing deeper into the wholesale and retail space to stay competitive, including by marketing directly to retail investors.

“On behalf of the team and CI, I would like to thank all unitholders for their support,” Cooper wrote. “Cooper Investors would also like to thank Qiao for her hard work managing the Asian Equities Fund over the last 4 and half year period and wish her the very best in her future endeavours.”

The Asian Equities fund had returned -20.86 per cent over the last year, but was well ahead of its benchmark – the MSCI AC Asia ex Japan – with an annualised return of 8.07 per cent since its 2007 inception against the benchmark’s 4.93 per cent.

Still, Asian equities are once again a hot commodity, and Ma’s departure comes as they return to a bull market following the winding back of lockdown measures that had cast a pall over the CSI300, making the timing somewhat puzzling.

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