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Permal hires Merrill Lynch to explore way forward

Permal Group, the funds of hedge funds manager, has hired investment bank Merrill Lynch to conduct a strategic review of its business.

Permal, which oversees about USD 18 billion for clients and has offices in New York, London and Singapore, is controlled by Worms & Cie.

Worms & Cie was a pioneer in the use of the multi-manager investment concept by launching Haussmann Holdings N.V. in 1973. One of the first vehicles of its kind, Haussmann Holdings allocated its assets to a variety of independent money managers investing primarily in US securities. Worms & Cie recently consolidated its asset management activities under the Permal Group.

The US operations of the Permal Group are currently conducted by Permal Asset Management, a division of Worms & Co., Inc. In 1999, the Permal Group established its UK operations in London through Permal Investment Management Services Limited. Shortly thereafter, Permal Investment Management Services Limited opened an office in Singapore.

Permal was an early investor with a number of leading hedge fund managers, including George Soros, Michael Steinhardt, Julian Robertson, Bruce Kovner and Louis Bacon.

A spokesperson for Permal commented: "We can confirm that Worms and Permal are investigating strategic options for taking the business forward. Permal's management has a strong vested interest in Permal's continued success and is integral to any future decision-making process. This strategic review will in no way compromise the commitment that Permal and Worms have to the continued success of Permal."

Permal's strategic review comes alongside news that Lehman Holdings Inc. is negotiating to buy USD 11 billion London-based fund of hedge funds GLG Partners while JPMorgan is acquiring a majority stake in USD 7 billion New York-based Highbridge Capital Management.

Funds of hedge funds are attracting these bank buyers because of the high fees they can generate. Fees on bank-run mutual funds, by contrast, average at 5 percent.

The banks are also making sure that they have in-house FoHF skills to offer institutional and HNWI clients who are increasingly including hedge fund allocations to their portfolios.

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