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Minimum investment amount for private equity funds forecast to rise

An office of Optimus Asset Management in Seoul. (Yonhap)
An office of Optimus Asset Management in Seoul. (Yonhap)

South Korea will likely increase the minimum amount of investment for private equity funds from the current 100 million won ($83,373) to 300 million won as early as next month in its efforts to protect individual investors on the heels of a series of alleged fraud cases linked to funds in South Korea, according to news reports on Sunday.

The Ministry of Government Legislation has been reviewing the measure, which will be included in the planned revisions of the nation’s Financial Investment Services and Capital Market Act.

The Financial Services Commission previously announced it would seek to revise the act in January this year to beef up protection for investors of highly risky financial products.

“The new rules will be able to go into effect in late July or early August,” an FSC official was quoted as saying by local newswire Yonhap News.

Since the minimum investment amount was lowered from 500 million won to 100 million won in 2015, some investors started putting all their wealth into equity funds.

The revisions are aimed at raising the bar for investors who do not have enough knowledge about how to manage risks surrounding the funds.

Most bills proposed by the government to fix loopholes in the sales and management of private equity funds are still pending, and discussions and reviews needed among government agencies and the National Assembly mean that it could take a long time to bring this revision into law. So instead of a government-led enactment, the bill is expected to be introduced into a legislature by some lawmakers, which requires fewer legislative steps than a government bill.

South Korean investment house Optimus Asset Management froze funds worth more than 68.1 billion won in June. The investment company had told investors that its funds were intended to invest in highly stable state-led construction projects. The firm, however, allegedly used the investment to acquire riskier financial products or acquire listed companies.

Lime Asset Management, once the nation’s largest hedge fund, has suspended withdrawals of a significant amount of funds, worth more than 1.67 trillion won, since last year. It faced a liquidity crisis in November last year after it failed to redeem its investments in funds linked to New York-based investment adviser International Investment Group, whose registration was canceled last year for committing financial fraud.

By Kim Young-won (wone0102@heraldcorp.com)
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