NEW-ALLIANCE Asset Management (Asia), an unusual combination between Hong Kong's largest property developer and the world's ninth-biggest investment manager, made its debut last week. The fund manager, a 50-50 joint venture between Sun Hung Kai Properties and New York-based Alliance Capital Management, aims initially to put some of Alliance Capital's international money to work in the greater-China region and eventually to build a strong local retail network on the base of SHK Properties' shopping centre and telecommunications businesses. Alliance Capital's chairman, Dave Williams, described the formation of New-Alliance as part of a global strategy to form joint ventures in countries where his company 'would probably not be able to achieve distribution without the help of a partner'. The United States company, which has US$199 billion in assets under management, has embarked on an ambitious global programme of expansion in recent months, entering into money management partnerships in Brazil, Russia, South Korea and South Africa. The New-Alliance venture was originally announced in March. 'It's kind of coincidental that these things came to the boil right at the same time. We've been working on them for a couple of years,' Mr Williams said, conceding the timing 'gave everyone grey hairs'. New-Alliance launches with 14 of Alliance Capital's existing range of Luxembourg-domiciled retail funds, eight global ones and six specialised or regional ones. In addition, the venture has begun marketing its own Greater China Fund. As part of this marketing drive, Geoffrey Hyde, the venture's chief executive, focused on the task of interesting international investors in the greater-China region and distinguishing for them China's potential from Southeast Asia's recent financial turmoil. 'The American market, at least, is beginning to identify the differential between what investing in the Hong Kong [and] China-oriented marketplace means as opposed to Southeast Asia as a whole,' Mr Hyde said. Decisions about how to invest money drawn into the region would be made by utilising the 'top-down local insights' of SHK Properties and the 'bottom-up global stock research' of Alliance Capital, said Tsim Tak-lung, the venture's chairman. Meanwhile, Mr Williams is setting his sights further, hoping not only to attract international funds for investment in the region but also, in the long term, to take advantage of his partnership with SHK Properties to build a retail network able to raise funds locally. SHK Properties developed Hong Kong's first regional shopping centre, the New Town Plaza in Sha Tin. It also owns a substantial interest in cellular-phone operator SmarTone Telecommunications Holdings. Mr Williams sees such retail businesses as potential points of entry for fund distribution. 'Our dream is that Sun Hung Kai will be a distributor of mutual funds through their customer base. That is our long-term plan,' he said. 'Maybe we'll never have a kiosk in each shopping mall selling funds, but I think Sun Hung Kai does have a good sense of the high-net-worth population in the Hong Kong area and in some of the other cities where they do a retail business.' New-Alliance has hired Matthew Lee Wai-shun, formerly of National Mutual Funds Management (Asia), as its chief investment officer and Derek Yung Chun-kwok, formerly of Fidelity Investments Management (HK), as its marketing director for mutual funds.