Killing it like a hooker in Hong Kong

Breaking News: Temasek sets up its own hedge fund

From Bloomberg:

Seatown Holdings International will employ a multistrategy to invest in assets from stocks to bonds, targeting absolute returns, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.

Charles Ong, chief strategist at Temasek, is the chief executive officer, the people said. Nasser Ahmad, co-founder of New York-based DiMaio Ahmad Capital LLC, a hedge-fund firm specializing in credit products, is the co-chief executive officer, they said.

The size of the hedge fund may be $3 billion, AsianInvestor reported on its Web Site earlier today. Temasek spokesman Jeffrey Fang declined to comment.

Sounds like they are setting up a prop desk. Word on the street is that they will still pay their people very little. Also given Temasek’s traditional top down approach, I wonder how they are ever going to get a research edge when they have a high propensity to ignore the opinions of junior people.

It also sounds like Ho Ching finally got her margin account size increased ; )

Let’s look at the principles:

Charles Ong – chief strategist at Temasek, an ex Malaysian. Former head of Lazard and Deutsche SEA IB. 41, a very young high flyer, but comparatively an underachiever compared to his brother Richard, who was promoted to head of Goldman China. He’s also the man who did the Shin Corp deal, sending Thailand into its endless coup phase.

From China Economic Review:

Now we would like to bring your attention to the curious case of Richard Ong of Goldman Sachs. Ong, a Malaysian Chinese, was not allowed his promotion to head Goldman’s Beijing joint venture, Goldman Sachs Gao Hua Securities, because he failed a government mandated Chinese-language proficiency exam.

That seems odd. Ong was co-head of investment banking in Asia and headed Goldman’s Singapore office before moving to Beijing. He was clearly well-qualified, and, at the age of 42, also on a rapid ascent up the ranks. Goldman is supposed to be the world’s most profitable investment bank, and enjoys special status in China, since it’s one of only two foreign brokerages with management control over its JVs here (the other is UBS). According to the FT, many exemptions have been given in the past to foreign executives whose Chinese wasn’t up to scratch.


But can we glean a clue by examining Richard Ong’s resume? According to the FT again, Ong was “instrumental” in Singapore government investment vehicle Temasek’s purchase of ousted Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s Shin Corp last year. But just how instrumental was he? The Nation, a Thai paper, noted that Richard’s brother, Charles Ong, is Temasek’s head of overseas investment strategy and “right-hand man” to Temasek chief Ho Ching. According to Goldman’s website, its Singapore office counts Temasek as a “key client”.

So Charlie is a card carrying member of the Singapore elite oligarchy.

Nasser Ahmad

Nasser Ahmad is the Chief Investment Officer and Manager of DiMaio Ahmad Capital, an investment manager with its headquarters in New York.

Prior to co-founding DiMaio Ahmad Capital in 2005, Mr. Ahmad was a Managing Director of Credit Suisse Capital and the Chief Investment Officer for the Diversified Credit Hedge Fund Group.  Mr. Ahmad spent twelve years at Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) where he held senior positions in the Fixed Income trading division. Before moving over to Credit Suisse Capital, Mr. Ahmad ran the Global Credit trading business for CSFB.  Mr. Ahmad started his professional career at Salomon Brothers in 1992.

Mr. Ahmad is on the boards of Breakthrough for Human Rights and the Soros Economic Development Fund.  He is also a board member of the South Asian Action Forum (SAAF), a Political Action Committee (PAC) consisting of community and business leaders that promotes a progressive policy platform with key rising and established U.S. policymakers.  In addition,Mr. Ahmad is a term member of The Corporation Development Committee (CDC) of MIT which helps secure critical financial resources for the Institute.

In 2008, Mr. Ahmad joined the National Finance Committee (NFC) of the Obama presidential campaign and was appointed co-chair of the Asian American Finance committee.

Mr. Ahmad was born and raised in Pakistan.  He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he received a B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering.

What happened to DiMaio Ahmad, well the long and short of it, is that these guys were spun out of CS during the boom era, then Dow Kim at ML (you remember the guy who was single handedly responsible for ML’s horrible credit book) took a stake in them and committed capital. They then embarked on a disastrous strategy of buying high yield notes yielding 10%, levering it up 4-5 times at 6% in order to get a return in the mid teens. They got slaughtered by the crisis, illiquid book, facing future cash calls, a long wind down process for investors to get back their money. Having failed, Jack Dimaio got hired to take over Morgan Stanley’s credit book, leaving everyone else to hunt for their own exits.


I will blindly speculate that Nasser will cover all the brown countries ie Middle East, India, Pakistan and parts of South East Asia, while Charles will cover all the yellow countries ie North Asia and parts of South East Asia.  I’m not being racist or anything, but this is actually how the Singapore bureaucracy thinks.

Nasser and Charles are probably getting a share of profits, but no management fee. Few if any of the traders and analysts will get paid hedge fund money, so it will be a training ground for Temasek staff looking to exit to the private sector.

They will probably blow up and have to be bailed out by Temasek. I mean it’s such a clear moral hazard situation that I would expect them to gun the risk. You have an entity that can actually print its own money (Singapore is a hard currency) that is backing you.

Charles probably told Temasek he wanted to make some serious dough and he was thinking of setting up his own fund. Nasser wanted to be closer to his family in Pakistan, now that the parents are older and he’s done his New York thing. Asia is the place to be, so why not move out.

Anyway, will write more about these guys soon.

February 10, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. […] GIC, Temasek State Fund Investments – The Temasek Review: U.S. Prof lambasts Singapore’s “Temasek model” for investing in failing individuals and products – TradecoHoldco: Breaking News: Temasek sets up its own hedge fund […]

    Pingback by The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Daily SG: 11 Feb 2010 | February 11, 2010

  2. Interesting post. The set up of this Seatown hedge fund is imho simply to get their PnL further away from the eyes of the Singapore citizens. While Temasek is not legally required to disclose their performance much like a hedge fund, its status as a sovereign wealth fund obliges them.

    BTW, I wouldn’t consider Singapore’s young currency a hard currency just yet.

    Comment by fievel | February 11, 2010

  3. By hard currency I mean they can borrow in SGD instead of USD. This means that the pieces of paper they print are actually worth something, unlike say Indonesia which has to borrow in USD.

    Comment by vanderghast | February 11, 2010

  4. Won’t be a hard currency for too long if they print too much of it.

    Anyway, pretty interesting article. The Singapore elite’s wet dream is to suck out all the CPF money into their packets by the giant Ponzi scheme that they are running. This is one way to take up all the upside and shaft the citizens on the downside.

    Comment by Who are you ? | February 14, 2010

  5. You’ve got to wonder at what point Singapore becomes deeply frustrated by being beholden to the investing B team.

    Incidentally, I read about all these ex GIC guys leaving: does Ho Ching just scare off the smart thing or are these folks more like the Singapore equivalent of Brave New World deltas?

    Comment by nemoincognito | February 23, 2010

  6. Isn’t Charles out of political favor? Or is this gonna be the final nail in his coffin when it blows up per the author… Charles never learnt his lesson and is once again backing his brother’s ventures (Richard Ong heads Hopu) with Singapore tax payer’s money.

    Comment by Really no more Talent? | September 29, 2010

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