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First City Monument Bank Plc, Nigeria (FCMB) and INTL Consilium LLC, Florida, USA has announced a partnership to launch a US$100 million hedge fund investing in Africa and the Middle East.

A statement jointly issued by FCMB and INTL Consilium said the fund tagged Legacy Africa Alpha Fund will invest exclusively in Africa and Middle East debt and equity, and will be structured as an absolute return fund. The fund which will place a 30 percent cap on its Middle Eastern weighting to ensure significant exposure to Africa’s fastest growing economies would be officially launched on July 1, 2008 with $100M under management.

Commenting on the fund, Jonathan Binder, co-portfolio manager, said, “INTL Consilium is focused on fundamental value assessed through our primary research process integrating top-down and bottom-up analysis. The new Legacy Africa Alpha Fund is a natural extension to our global products as we have been investing aggressively in the region for three years now.”

“INTL already has over US$ 450 million invested in the region in both debt and equity securities in over 16 different countries as they were quick to identify value and growth opportunities at a time when many investors shied away. The Legacy Africa Alpha Fund is an exciting venture for our Team, as it will allow us to leverage our existing knowledge and contacts within the region” added Charles Cassel, co-portfolio manager.

The Legacy Africa Alpha Fund offers investors a new channel to access Africa and Middle East high-return opportunities. It also increases FCMB’s ability to offer a differentiated asset management proposition to its institutional and high net worth clients.

Commenting on the launch, FCMB’s Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (MD/CEO), Ladi Balogun said: “Africa is the most exciting investor destination and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. We are leveraging on INTL's experience and track record successfully managing funds for some of the most discerning international institutional investors. We bring access to rare investment opportunities, local knowledge and market insights. INTL and FCMB have had a relationship for over 15 years, which will be a further source of comfort for our investors.”

By partnering with FCMB Group, INTL Consilium will access the stock picking expertise of CSL, FCMB’s soon to be acquired asset management and prime brokerage arm (pending regulatory approval in Nigeria). CSL is consolidating its position to become Nigeria’s leading asset management company both in terms of expertise and assets under management. By sending a number of its Africa focused analysts and fund managers on secondment to the management of the fund, the firm is leveraging the partnership to help build capacity for the future.

In addition to the Legacy Africa Alpha Fund, CSL is simultaneously launching two additional funds in under the flagship “Legacy” brand. The Legacy 50 Fund, an index tracker of Nigeria’s top 50 companies by market capitalization and the Legacy Banking 10, a quant driven semi active fund investing in Nigerian Banking shares will each be launched with N3 billion under management. This will bring total assets under management/advise at CSL to N24 billion (US$ 205 million) making it arguably the largest asset manager in Nigeria in accordance with FCMB’s continued strategy to bring additional returns to FCMB shareholders through more diversified fee based operations.