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Institutional investors hungry to tap the Asian trade finance markets will now have a new opportunity with the announcement by EuroFin Asia Group (EFA Group) of the forthcoming launch of the LH Asian Trade Finance Fund. Through its subsidiary EuroFin Investments Pte Ltd, a boutique hedge fund management company based in Singapore, the fund will actively structure and invest in asset-backed trade and structured trade finance transactions in Asian emerging markets.

“It is a natural evolution of our business model which will reinforce our presence on the Asian trade finance scene,” says Christian Stauffer, managing director and founder of EuroFin Asia Group. “We have grown as a reputable originator and arranger, we now want to move to the next level and be able to participate to the transactions we structure. We are in the best position to understand and control the risks that are associated with any transaction that we originate and structure.”

EuroFin Asia was established three years ago by Stauffer. It is a boutique merchant finance group headquartered in Singapore and specialising in Asian trade flow financing. EFA Group has built a reputation in the origination and structuring of trade and structured trade transactions particularly in the commodities/raw material industries. It has become a very active and niche market player and has already placed several transactions with banks and alternative financiers.

EuroFin Asia is led by partners Stauffer, Craig Dimmick and Francois Dotta. Senior partners each have a long history of successful transactions in Asia and Europe.

Additionally, the partners are supported at the advisor level by a close network of professionals with extensive experience in trade finance, corporate finance and investment banking.

EuroFin Asia has also reached an agreement with Ludgate Hill Investment Management, a specialised hedge fund manager based in Hong Kong running its flagship fund, The LH Asian Arbitrage Fund. LH Asian Trade Finance Fund will jointly be marketed through the platform and benefit at the senior advisor level of the support of Mike Djen, founding partner of Ludgate Hill Investment Management.

“Mike is a long time friend and has always positively contributed to the development of joint ideas. Moreover, he is a very successful fund manager and I have not doubt that we will greatly benefit from his experience and input in the project,” says Stauffer.

The fund’s natural client base will be small and medium-sized businesses that face initial barriers to traditional (bank) sources of trade finance. By utilising structuring techniques to moderate risks, it expects to achieve low volatility and stable returns. The fund will invest in various types of trade finance assets, from traditional warehousing/collateral managed transactions, to working capital financing, to selected high yield transactions such as transactional equity deals. In some cases the fund will act as principal and in others, as co-financier.

Trade finance assets, as a class of assets, remain an attractive investment in terms of yield, security and liquidity. However, investors have very limited opportunities to participate, especially in Asia. The fund will provide one of the first such products for savvy investors.

The management team is led by Stauffer, managing director. Before founding EuroFin Asia, Stauffer held various positions at Andre Group in Central America, China and Singapore, where he was head of structured and project finance, Asia.

Latterly at Singapore-listed Noble Group he was deputy group treasurer and director of Noble Trade Finance where he was instrumental to the development of the Chinese business.

Dimmick is a director and partner of EuroFin Asia. Before joining EuroFin Asia he worked for Bank of Hawaii in Honolulu as foreign exchange and collections manager and eventually spent three years in the bank’s head office credit department where he was responsible for worldwide financial institutions. In 1995 he transferred to the bank’s Singapore branch as manager for trade finance and correspondent banking.

In 1999, he joined Rabobank Singapore as manager, trade and commodity finance. He was founding member of Rabobank Singapore’s corporate banking department in 2001 and became interim head, corporate banking in early 2004. While at Bank of Hawaii and Rabobank, he covered most markets in the South and Southeast Asia as well as China.

Dotta is a partner and joined EuroFin Asia in September 2004 as a business development manager. Before this, Dotta worked as an auditor in PriceWaterhouseCoopers and before that he worked for a promotional marketing company in Madrid.

Mike Djen founded Ludgate Hill Investment Management Limited in 2002. His flagship fund, LH Asian Arbitrage Fund, specialises in convertible bonds and depositary receipt arbitrage strategies with a focus on Asian markets. Before Ludgate Hill, Djen hads nine years of CB and DR trading and origination experience with major investment banks. He previously managed Deutsche Bank’s Asian ex-Japan CB and DR origination desk for three years. During that time, he completed a number of high profile Asian transactions and raised over US$10bn for Asian issuers.

Before Deutsche, he spent three years at JPMorgan, where he set up and ran the bank’s Asian CB/DR trading desk and was responsible for building JPMorgan’s Asian CB/DR trading and risk management system. His trading book remained profitable throughout Asian financial crisis in 1997-98. Before JPMorgan, he was a CB/DR trader at BZW.