S'pore's Whampoa Group to invest $140.5m via fund for digital assets

Whampoa Group has built an investment portfolio of about 200 companies over the past decade. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Scions from two of Singapore's most prominent Lee families are boosting their involvement in digital assets.

Whampoa Group, a multi-family office with investments in global tech firms, aims to deploy about US$100 million (S$140.3 million) through a venture capital fund in start-ups in the burgeoning digital asset segment, its senior executives said.

The investment group was co-founded by Ms Amy Lee, a former senior partner at Lee & Lee, a Singapore law firm started by her father Lee Kim Yew and Singapore's first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and his wife.

Its other co-founder is Mr Lee Han Shih, a member of the business family that co-founded OCBC and Lee Rubber Group, among other companies.

Family offices tend to be less regulated than standard firms and are among the bigger players that have been looking to get into alternative investments.

In Singapore, the wealthy in particular have been embracing tokens, helping to propel Bitcoin trading at DBS Group Holdings' digital exchange that serves institutional investors and family offices. At the same time, however, the country's authorities have repeatedly discouraged retail investors from betting on crypto.

Whampoa Group also plans to raise US$50 million for a crypto-related hedge fund, another co-founder and chief executive Shawn Chan said in an interview.

The Whampoa hedge fund is market-neutral to offset cryptocurrencies' volatility, Mr Chan said. It primarily trades Bitcoin and Ether, and occasionally other tokens when it identifies a favourable risk-reward set-up.

As for the venture capital fund, Whampoa is looking for strategic partners. It has been speaking with regional family offices and some big Chinese Internet companies, Mr Chan said.

Whampoa Digital, the group's digital assets investment arm, will invest in and incubate early stage start-ups in Web3 - a utopian vision of the Internet where users, rather than shareholders, own websites and other online services.

"We think there is great conviction in this space. The venture capital fund will help us to expand our footprint in this area," said Mr Chan.

He said the fund, which is likely to be launched next quarter, has received strong interest from Chinese tech firms and Asian business groups.

The fund plans to initially deploy US$100 million and then scale up. It will invest in equity and tokens of products or services that enable and facilitate the mass adoption of Web3.

Whampoa Group has built an investment portfolio of about 200 companies over the past decade, including Chinese tech firm ByteDance and a fund set up by cryptocurrency exchange Binance.

Globally, venture capital investors are stepping up funding of crypto projects - blockchain-based apps and platforms fuelled by Web3.

Mr Aureole Foong, senior partner at Whampoa Group, said that though cryptocurrencies have had a torrid year, Web3 start-ups such as those involved in decentralised finance applications offer huge long-term growth potential.

He said Web3 projects are starting to find uses such as in the remittance of money and the entertainment industry.

Mr Chan added that South-east Asia's demographics and high Internet penetration make it a fertile region for mass adoption of Web3 products and services. REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

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