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Money Management: Eastern pull

Investors are pouring money into hedge funds that invest in Asia, hoping to capitalize on the region’s economic growth and capital markets expansion.

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  By Carol Huang 08/13/06

In 1998, as much of Asia teetered on economic and financial collapse, Robert Appleby, a managing director at French bank Crédit Agricole Indosuez, decided to join a partner launching a hedge fund in Hong Kong. To many of his friends and colleagues, it seemed like a crazy move. Markets in Hong Kong, Seoul and Jakarta had tanked, currencies such as the Thai baht and the Filipino peso were in free fall, and ratings on Asian countries’ debt were being downgraded to junk bond status.

“Nothing on that scale had ever happened before, and that was the time we set up our business,” recalls Appleby, who is chief investment officer of that firm, Asia Debt Management Hong Kong, which has since become one of the region’s biggest hedge funds, with more than $1.4 billion invested largely in distressed debt. “Many said it was foolhardy. I tend to agree, but in retrospect that was the right time to get involved in a market no one had any clue about.”

Less than a decade later, Asia’s stunning recovery has attracted enormous amounts of capital and spurred a historic shift in the hedge fund industry.

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