The Australian - The Deal - - Contents -

When it comes to rais­ing funds, Moelis Aus­tralia As­set Man­age­ment’s An­drew Martin is ready to eat what­ever it takes.

AN­DREW MARTIN has spent the past nine months trav­el­ling in China, eat­ing scor­pi­ons, snakes and tur­tles when­ever duty re­quired, all part of pitch­ing the ben­e­fits of Moelis Aus­tralia As­set Man­age­ment’s prop­erty fund for wealthy in­vestors keen to take ad­van­tage of the fed­eral govern­ment’s sig­nif­i­cant-in­vestor visa.

The fast-track scheme, which started last Novem­ber, al­lows for­eign­ers to live, work and study in Aus­tralia for four years if they put more than $ 5 mil­lion into ap­proved in­vest­ments. “It’s been tough, but also one of the most re­ward­ing things I’ve ever done,” man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Martin says.

The jour­ney, which took him to some of the less well-known cities across China, helped Martin raise $ 200 mil­lion from about 40 high net worth in­vestors for the Moelis Aus­tralia Prop­erty Visa Fund.

A for­mer head of in­fra­struc­ture and pri­vate eq­uity at UBS Global As­setMan­age­ment, Martin is much more ac­cus­tomed to deal­ing with sov­er­eign wealth funds or pen­sion funds, but says he has learnt a few tricks along the­way about se­cur­ing in­vest­ment from re­tail ty­coons, realestate king­pins, min­ing mag­nates and IT en­trepreneurs.

And that can in­clude pre­tend­ing he is a veg­e­tar­ian when din­ing with an in­vestor to avoid eat­ing some of the fare served in China.

“I have eaten scor­pion and I have eaten snake and I have eaten tur­tle. The tur­tle wasn’t great,” he says with a laugh. “But you just have to go with the flow. So I have plenty of those sorts of war sto­ries.”

Martin says the drink­ing games so fa­mil­iar to many China- sea­soned ex­ec­u­tives are no longer favoured by high net worth in­vestors. They pre­fer to form strong re­la­tion­ships with their fund man­agers while sober. “I have met each one of th­ese [Chi­nese] in­vestors sev­eral times. It’s not about putting a flyer out there and hop­ing for the best.”

Martin says the Chi­nese mar­ket can of­ten seem opaque, with no for­malised pri­vate bank­ing or fi­nan­cial plan­ning net­works. “A lot of it is word-of-mouth and re­fer­ral. A lot of the en­deav­ours are about build­ing per­sonal re­la­tion­ships.”

And he has found the in­vestors to be shrewd busi­ness peo­ple. “They ask as many ques­tions as would some­one who works for one of the ma­jor sov­er­eign wealth funds or pen­sion funds, which is quite sur­pris­ing.”

Martin has taken a num­ber of Man­darin-speak­ing ex­ec­u­tives from Moelis’s Sin­ga­pore of­fice to China to smooth the process. How­ever, his ef­forts to sign up in­vestors have been frus­trated by Aus­tralia’s im­mi­gra­tion bu­reau­cracy, which has been slow to ap­prove the visas. At this stage, only two ap­pli­ca­tions have been fi­nalised, with the re­main­der still be­ing pro­cessed.

Loath to crit­i­cise the govern­ment, Martin says that he un­der­stands that it can take time for the Depart­ment of Im­mi­gra­tion and Cit­i­zen­ship to as­sess whether the funds have been law­fully ob­tained. Un­for­tu­nately, he adds, pa­per­work is not among the strong­est suit for China’s wealth­i­est cit­i­zens. There­fore, it can take some time for visa re­quests to be as­sessed, even for “ex­cel­lent can­di­dates’’.

Martin has also touted Moelis’s prod­ucts to in­vestors in other Asian coun­tries who are in­ter­ested in the Prop­erty Visa Fund.

“The data tell us it’s 93 per cent com­ing from Greater China, as we do have in­vestors out of Tai­wan and out of Hong Kong.”

Moelis has also been es­tab­lish­ing re­la­tion­ships with in­vestor groups in South­east Asia, in­clud­ing Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore, and it has se­cured some in­vestors from those coun­tries. “We are throw­ing a rock in the pond for In­dia and like­wise in Ja­pan, but frankly it’s the low-hang­ing fruit, and I can’t spread my­self too thin.”

Back in Aus­tralia, Moelis is look­ing to seed the fund with its first prop­erty, the $20mil­lion Heales ville Walk shop­ping cen­tre in Vic­to­ria’s Yarra Val­ley. The neigh­bour­hood cen­tre is an­chored by Coles and in­cludes 14 spe­cialty stores.

Martin says the fund’s next in­vest­ment is likely to be an­other low-risk re­tail com­plex. “In­vestors like a di­ver­si­fied man­date, across re­tail, of­fice and in­dus­trial prop­erty, as well as across dif­fer­ent cities in Aus­tralia.”

Moelis Aus­tralia As­set Man­age­ment man­ag­ing di­rec­tor An­drew Martin (right) with Prop­erty Visa Fund chair­man Richard Col­less.

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