AUSTRIA/CEE - Swedish asset manager East Capital presented its new office in Vienna today from which it aims to grow its sales and investments in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).

East Capital currently has €5.7bn in assets under management exclusively invested in the CEE region, as far as Russia, Georgia and other states formerly belonging to the Community of Independent States (CIS).

"This is one of the best places to be invested in at the moment," said Peter Håkansson, East Capital founder and chairman of the board, in a presentation in Vienna today.

He explained the region's push to catch up with other EU members has led to a unique eagerness to grow.

Together with the fact that only 4% of trade in the region was done with the US, this leaves CEE's real economies looking "very good" even in the difficult  economic conditions currently seen across the globe.

"It is pretty safe to be in this part of the world as an investor as the direct effects of the financial crisis are minor,"  Håkansson added.

Indirectly, stock exchanges in this region will also be affected but the much more pressing problem is home-made inflation. (See earlier IPE article: CEE markets hit by inflation - conference)

Karine Hirn, managing partner at East Capital, confirmed the financial crisis has had little effect on the company's inflow in assets either, as they grew €1.9bn over the last year.

"The markets we invest in were not that affected and when you have a crisis which did not originate in the region you invest in, people are more concerned with their other investments so we did not see outflows," Hirn explained to IPE.

András Szálkai has been named as director of East Capital's new Vienna office. He joined the Swedish asset manager in 2006 after working at Vontobel Bank in Vienna, where he was responsible for Eastern European equities, as well as previously being an analyst at Erste Bank.

East Capital will target all groups of clients, both institutional and retail, using "partnerships with Austrian banks, insurances as well as other routes of distribution", said Paul Carr, sales manager for the new office.

"Vienna is a hub for the CEE region", Hirn pointed out.

Almost 40% of all of Austria's foreign direct investment is in CEE which is a percentage only second to that of London's investments in the region, she explained.