Australian fund manager to sell itself for global expansion

Fixed income manager EquitiLink is within days of closing a deal that could boost its presence in the North American market.

The management of EquitiLink has almost finalised a sale of the company in a bid to increase the Australia-based fixed income manager's global market reach, according to a senior company official.

Ouma Sananikone-Fletcher, chief executive officer of EquitiLink, says the deal could boost the manager's investor base to up to 300,000 in North America, where the company is operating five funds - four in fixed income and one in equities.

"Our plan is that the agreement should not affect the company's current structure. Of the various models (from potential buyers) that we are looking at, there is one that seems to be like that. It would leave the current structure in place and I would remain the CEO of the organization," she says.

According to Sananikone-Fletcher, Australian buyers are excluded from the shortlist as the company hopes to gain more exposure on the international stage with stronger ability in research and analysis in a global environment.

"A partner with very good research skills in North America or in Europe can complete the picture for us in terms of having the ability to interpret information there better, therefore allowing us to get better performance," she says.

"EquitiLink has never been like other Australian fund managers who often think the Australian market is the only source for raising money. We have clients in Australia and we want to continue to grow our business here. But we always think that other parts of the world are just as likely to provide opportunities for us. To date, we've been very successful in North America and we want to continue to grow there." She adds Europe also presents a good opportunity for the company to sell Australian and Asian funds.

Founded by joint-managing directors Brian Sherman and Lawrence Freedman in 1981, the fund manager has around A$5.5 billion under management, of which 70% is in fixed income assets and the rest in equities. EquitiLink's $1.2 billion portfolio in Asian bonds makes it one of the best-known managers in the region's fixed income market.

The company also owns a 50% stake in Chiefly Group, a financial planning house jointly held by the New South Wales Labor Union. Chiefly has around A$4.5 billion under advice with a strong union member customer base.

Sananikone-Fletcher says the deal does not necessarily improve the company's presense in Asia, adding that "the US market is very important for us".

She declines to disclose the price tag, nor the name of the likely winning bidder.