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Platinum’s lead Asia manager resigns after top returns


Platinum Asset Management’s lead portfolio manager on its $5.2 billion Asia-ex Japan fund, Joseph Lai, resigned suddenly over the Christmas period and has left the firm. He had signed off, however, on a stellar year for the group’s top-performing strategy.

Lai took over running the Asia ex-Japan managed fund (and the $492 million listed version) in late 2014 from co-founder and then-co-CIO Andrew Clifford. Clifford, now Platinum’s chief executive and CIO, will run the Asia strategy once again until a replacement for Lai is found.

The Asia ex-Japan strategy has been a ray of sunshine for Platinum in recent years, both in terms of investment performance and retention of assets under management. A glance at the Asia portfolio top holdings explains why.

The number three holding, as of September, was Tencent from China, which had a 6.6 per cent weighting, followed by Alibaba from China, in which Platinum had 4.4 per cent. The top two were Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (7.0 per cent) and Samsung Electronics (6.8 per cent).

Platinum’s Asia strategy style has tended to be more growth-oriented than the firm’s other strategies, which has helped relative performance during the current market cycle.

Platinum’s total assets under management, at $23.6 billion last month (December), slipped from $24.9 billion a year earlier.

Lai was promoted to run the successful Asia fund after Jacob Mitchell, a former deputy CIO and long-time Platinum portfolio manager, resigned from the firm ahead of launching his own boutique, Antipodes Asset Management, in 2015. Antipodes, which now has $8 billion under management, also has an Asia ex-Japan strategy to complement its main global equities fund.

The Platinum Asia fund’s return for the 12 months to November last was 29.1 per cent – nearly double the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index score of 14.9 per cent. By comparison, Antipodes’ Asia fund’s return was 14.1 per cent in the year to December (index 13.9 per cent).

Platinum posted a notice of Lai’s resignation with the ASX on December 29, noting that Clifford would be taking over all his responsibilities on an interim basis.

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