While hardly a novel claim - in the past many have warned that Australia's housing and stock market are massive asset bubbles (which local banks were have been forced to deny as their fates are closely intertwined with asset prices even as the RBA is increasingly worried) - so far few if any have gone the distance of putting their money where their mouth was. That changed, when Australian asset manager Altair Asset Management made the extraordinary decision to liquidate its Australian shares funds and return "hundreds of millions" of dollars to its clients according to the Sydney Morning Herald, citing an impending property market "calamity" and the "overvalued and dangerous time in this cycle".
"Giving up management and performance fees and handing back cash from investments managed by us is a seminal decision, however preserving client's assets is what all fund managers should put before their own interests," Philip Parker, who serves as Altair's chairman and chief investment officer, said in a statement on Monday quoted by the SMH.
The 30-year investing veteran said that on May 15 he had advised Altair clients that he planned to "sell all the underlying shares in the Altair unit trusts and to then hand back the cash to those same managed fund investors." Parker also said he had "disbanded the team for time being", including his investment committee comprising of several prominent bears such as former Morgan Stanley chief economist and noted bear Gerard Minack and former UBS economist Stephen Roberts.
Parker said he wanted "to make clear this is not a winding up of Altair, but a decision to hand back client monies out of equities which I deem to be far too risky at this point."
"We think that there is too much risk in this market at the moment, we think it's crazy," Parker said with a candidness few of his colleagues are capable of, at least when still managing money.
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