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Japanese investors develop an appetite for Russian risk

In a move that demonstrates the broadening appeal of Russian assets, HSBC Investments has launched the first pure Russian equity fund for Japanese investors, raising more than $150 million since launching a marketing campaign at the end of March.

The HSBC Russia Open Fund will be managed by Halbis, HSBC’s specialist asset management arm, and is available to both retail and institutional investors.

The Russia Open Fund completes HSBC Investments’ stable of Japanese investor-focused equity funds that cover the core BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) emerging market economies. At the end of the first quarter of 2007, HSBC Investments had attracted more than $4 billion to its emerging market equity products in Japan, comprising about 7% of the $60 billion-plus stock of emerging markets equities it manages on a worldwide basis.

Although Japanese investors have traditionally been highly conservative in their investment outlook – about $7 trillion of the total $13 trillion of financial assets owned by Japanese investors is invested in time deposits in Japan that earn an annual return of just 0.5% – HSBC Investments’ head of marketing in Tokyo, Kenji Yamamoto, says demand for equities in general and those from emerging markets in particular is growing strongly. "Japanese investors are increasingly willing to take on long-term risk for long-term returns," he says.

In a further sign of the importance of the Russian equity markets to the Japanese financial services sector, Nomura has more than doubled its investment banking headcount in Europe to 140 in the past 18 months in an effort to win more business selling shares in Asia for Russian companies.

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