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Korean asset managers start suspending Russian funds

South Korea`s financial district of Yeouido, western Seoul (Yonhap)
South Korea`s financial district of Yeouido, western Seoul (Yonhap)
South Korean asset managers have started suspending the issue and redemption of shares on their Russia-exposed funds as the US and its allies continued to ramp up economic sanctions against Moscow.

According to market tracker FnGuide on Wednesday, nine Russia-exposed equity funds, including an exchange-traded fund, with a combined asset of 158.7 billion won ($131.6 million), are being sold by Korean financial institutions. The nine funds have already disappointed investors since the beginning of the year, having lost an average 49.12 percent in profitability.

Hanwha Asset Management, one of the major asset managers here, on Wednesday decided to suspend the issue and redemption of its Hanwha Russia Securities Investment Trust Fund with assets of 58.7 billion won. The fund, which is the largest among Russia-exposed funds sold here, is the only Russian fund sold by Hanwha in partnership with global investment bank JP Morgan. More than half of the fund consists of shares listed on the Moscow stock market, the firm said.

“We have agreed with JP Morgan to suspend the issue and redemption of the Hanwha Russia Securities Investment Trust Fund indefinitely,” a Hanwha spokesperson told The Korea Herald. The spokesperson added that the fund would be reopened as soon as “market conditions allow,” and did not elaborate further.

Following Hanwha’s footsteps, Shinhan Asset Management decided to freeze assets of four of its Russia-exposed funds, following an emergency meeting held Wednesday. It has two Russia-focused funds with combined assets of over 10 billion won, along with two other less Moscow-exposed funds. The two Russia-focused funds -- Shinhan The Dream Russia Securities Master Investment Trust and Shinhan Russia Securities Master Investment Trust –- each have some 50 percent of shares tied to the Moscow stock market.

KB Asset Management, the asset management arm of the nation’s No. 1 banking group KB Financial Group, has suspended its own Russian fund with assets of 7.7 billion won, while Kiwoom Asset Management froze assets of two similar funds.

Local investors’ concerns over their Russian assets have been growing, as Moscow has placed temporary restrictions on foreigners seeking to pull out.

Russian stocks were down about 40 percent for the year to date by Friday’s close in US dollar terms. The Moscow stock market remained shuttered for three consecutive days this week, and onlookers expect the market to see heavier losses when it reopens.

South Korea said Tuesday it plans to suspend financial transactions with seven major Russian banks and their affiliates in a bid to join the global efforts in tightening the screws on Moscow over its attack on Ukraine. The banks include Russian top lender Sberbank and state-owned banks VEB and PSB.

The US and its allies have adopted stricter financial sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, as they agreed to exclude some Russian banks from SWIFT, an international payment system where trillions of dollars change hands for cross-border payments.

By Jung Min-kyung (