Korea Investment Corporation (KIC) alternative investment head Jongho Kim has found a new chief for his real estate division, filling a position that has remained vacant for one year.
The Korean institution has appointed Thomas Cho as head of its real estate unit, hiring away the senior Qatar Investment Authority executive who took on his new duties at the world’s 14th largest sovereign wealth fund on 27 October, a spokesperson for the government investment fund told Mingtiandi.
After having served with QIA for eight years, Cho’s responsibilities in his new Seoul-based role include working with real estate investment portfolio managers at its overseas offices in New York, London and Singapore.
In his new position, Cho will report directly to Kim, who has been guiding the real estate team on an interim basis since the abrupt departure of Joseph Cha in October of last year.
With its latest senior hire, KIC, which had $205 billion in assets under management as of 31 December, will have filled in the last available position among its top executives, following a spasm of leadership turnover in the past year, reported Korea’s Maeil Business Newspaper.
Now 44, Cho has 18 years of industry experience, including managerial positions at Singapore’s Ascendas (before it became Ascendas-Singbridge and later merged with CapitaLand in 2019), as well as with Mirae Asset Global Investments, and was an assistant manager at Korea Real Estate Investment Trust Co beginning in 2004.
His predecessor, Cha, had taken the top property investment spot at the sovereign wealth fund in August of last year, and remained in that role for only two months after the appointment. After resigning from the role about a year ago, Cha is reported to have joined Abu Dhabi investment firm ADQ in December of last year.
Cho’s appointment comes less than two months after KIC logged a 13.83 percent investment loss during the first half of this year, according to The Korea Times, which cited data submitted by the sovereign fund to the opposition Democratic Party.
Despite its losses, the sovereign fund announced more management shuffles In August of this year, former head of investment strategy and innovation division Lee Hoon was promoted to chief investment officer.
In March of last year KIC added a pair of new heads to its private equity and absolute return teams.
Real Estate Commitments
Cho’s leadership in the real estate division should be useful after KIC increased its allocation to alternative investments to 17.5 percent of its total portfolio at the end of last year, up from 15.3 percent in the year earlier, according to its 2021 annual report.
In May of last year KIC teamed up with Korea’s National Pension Service (NPS) to bet on US logistics, with each institution committing $300 million to a GLP industrial fund. KIC is also understood to be a major backer of Blackstone funds.
In the past few years, KIC continued to expand its alternative investments beyond its east Asian home base, having opened a Singapore office in September of 2017.
In August of 2016, KIC was reported to be part of a group that was buying a 50 percent stake in the Southgate office complex in Melbourne for A$289 million (then $377.5 million).
About one year before that acquisition, the sovereign fund was said to have led a consortium to buy the InterContinental Hong Kong for $940 million, having teamed up with Hong Kong’s Gaw Capital Partners for the acquisition of the five-star hotel.