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Private equity has continued its strong fund formation trajectory; putting to one side the sui generis SoftBank Vision Fund (a $100bn vehicle managed by the Japanese technology conglomerate with large amounts of capital from the PIF from Saudi Arabia), many of the leading fund sponsors have had little difficulty raising funds hitting the £20bn mark. Many observers question just how sustainable this is in the long run. For this manner of work, clients have a very large range of firms, with primarily US-origin firms colonising the top end of the market but a roomy mid-market with a number of London originating firms doing more-than-respectable quality work for established managers. Limited partners continue to use a wide variety of the same firms, which are able to circumnavigated the conflicts issues as required.

A key development has been an acceleration in the shift from the use of the UK crown dependancies as Offshore jurisdictions towards ones that will continue to be in the European Union after 2019 (not that Jersey and Guernsey, which while having a customs union with the EU for goods, ever were EU member states or covered by the United Kingdom’s membership) – due to a superior limited partnership regime Luxembourg has typically been selected over Ireland, however questions continue to linger as to how Luxembourg’s French-language civil law courts would cope if it played host to something along the lines of the Carlyle litigation in Guernsey, a billion-pound negligence case concerning a fund which collapsed in the 2008 crash; as a visceral reminder of the complexity of modern investment funds, the trial involved 67 days of hearings, sixteen expert witnesses and over a hundred lever-arch files of evidence.

Hedge fund returns have picked up, with industry figures reporting 8.5% returns in 2017 across the industry worldwide, however concerns about if the two-and-twenty traditional management fee is a good value for money proposition, especially for the major North American retirement plans, bearing in mind the general rising tide of asset prices across the board.

Listed funds have had a more active year, with more funds listed on the UK exchanges on both the specialist funds segment of the main market as well as a number listed on the more flexible Alternative Investment Market. One asset class of note has been real estate, with listed REITs providing a more user-friendly method of access to assets such as the logistics “big boxes”. As far as retail funds are concerned, British law firms continue to be popular advisors on various issues in this space despite the migration of fund domiciles largely to Luxembourg and Ireland.

Brexit has certainly been a subject of discussion in the asset management industry and, due to the significant loss of value of the pound, a great opportunity for international private equity houses looking at British assets to acquire them at a discount. Investment fund regulation – in particular national private placement regimes and passporting issues continue to be major issues, however despite the cramped time frame negotiations have still yet to provide any real certainty on the matter.

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