Billionaire-backed Mason plans acquisitions to build its wealth management business

A file picture of Chinese tycoon Hui Ming Mau. PHOTO: APPLE DAILY
A file picture of Chinese tycoon Hui Ming Mau. PHOTO: APPLE DAILY

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Mason Group Holdings, a Hong Kong financial firm backed by Chinese property tycoon Hui Wing Mau, is poised for an acquisition spree as it seeks to build an offshore wealth-management business of at least US$3 billion (S$4.08 billion) in assets from scratch.

The company, which operates a brokerage and a healthcare business, is in talks with multiple firms to either acquire or form partnerships, with an aim to announce deals by the end of this year, chief executive officer Alex Ko and chief operating officer Joel Chang said in an interview in Hong Kong last week.

Mr Chang cited Fosun International's purchase of a German private bank last year as an example of a deal Mason might do.

"We are building a financial platform to tap into the global asset-allocation business," said Mr Ko, 58. "Buying a bank may sound a complicated thing to do, but Europe has a lot of well-regulated banks of different sizes that have a good standing in their own country."

The main targets of Mason's new wealth business will be increasingly affluent Chinese with a rising appetite for offshore investments.

It is entering a crowded space: The biggest private banks in Asia, including UBS Group and Credit Suisse Group, are all vying for a slice of a market that Capgemini estimated had more than a million millionaires in 2015.

Ping An Insurance Group said last week its online financial division will start servicing global clients out of Singapore, with a focus on Chinese nationals.

Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission had issued 1,348 asset-management licenses as of March, a 51 per cent increase from the number outstanding at the end of 2012, data compiled by regulator show.

Mason's new wealth business would be able to lean on the firm's Hong Kong brokerage to execute stock trades on its behalf in the city, Mr Ko said.

Separately, the firm is banking on its health business and links to Mr Hui's Shimao Property Holdings in China to help it win wealth clients, Mr Chang, 49, said. The firm could market its services to customers of the baby-products chain it operates across China as well as its laboratory-testing and reproductive health clinics, he said.

Mason intends to offer its financial products to individuals living in Shimao's developments, he said. A Shimao investor relations representative confirmed the relationship between the two companies.

Asian insurance companies are also on Mason's deal radar as the firm seeks to vary its product offerings for customers, Mr Ko said.

While the executives did not disclose the amount they have to spend on purchases, Mr Chang said Mason is nearly debt-free and has net assets of close to HK$6 billion (S$1.04 billion). The firm could raise funds through debt or equity issuance to finance deals if necessary, he said.