Sovereign wealth fund

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A sovereign wealth fund (SWF) is a state-owned investment fund composed of financial assets such as stocks, bonds, property, precious metals or other financial instruments. Sovereign wealth funds invest globally. Some of them have grabbed attention making bad investments in several Wall Street financial firms including Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and Merrill Lynch. These firms needed a cash infusion due to losses resulting from mismanagement and the subprime mortgage crisis.

Some sovereign wealth funds are held solely by central banks, who accumulate the funds in the course of their management of a nation's banking system; this type of fund is usually of major economic and fiscal importance. Other sovereign wealth funds are simply the state savings which are invested by various entities for the purposes of investment return, and which may not have significant role in fiscal management.

The accumulated funds may have their origin in, or may represent foreign currency deposits, gold, SDRs and IMF reserve positions held by central banks and monetary authorities, along with other national assets such as pension investments, oil funds, or other industrial and financial holdings. These are assets of the sovereign nations which are typically held in domestic and different reserve currencies such as the dollar, euro and yen. Such investment management entities may be set up as official investment companies, state pension funds, or sovereign oil funds, among others.

There have been attempts to distinguish funds held by sovereign entities from foreign exchange reserves held by central banks. Soverign wealth funds can be characterized as maximizing long term return, with foreign exchange reserves serving short term currency stabilization and liquidity management. Many central banks in recent years possess reserves massively in excess of needs for liquidity or foreign exchange management. Moreover it is widely believed most have diversified hugely into assets other than short term, highly liquid monetary ones, though almost no data is available to back up this assertion. Some central banks have even begun buying equities, or derivatives of differing ilk (even if fairly safe ones, like Overnight Interest rate swaps).[citation needed]


[edit] History

The term Sovereign wealth fund was first used in 2005 by Andrew Rozanov in an article entitled, 'Who holds the wealth of nations?' in Central Banking journal[1]. The previous edition of the journal described the shift from traditional reserve management to sovereign wealth management; subsequently the term gained widespread use as the spending power of global officialdom has rocketed upwards.

Most of the savings of SWFs originate in accumulated foreign currency reserves.[citation needed] These were formerly held only in gold, as official gold reserves. But under the Bretton Woods system, the United States pegged the dollar to gold, and allowed convertibility of dollars to gold. This effectively made dollars appear as good as gold. The U.S. later abandoned the gold standard, but the dollar has remained relatively stable as a fiat currency, and it is still the most significant reserve currency. In the 1990s and early 2000s, central banks began to hold ever more vast numbers of assets in multiple currencies. Given the sizes (beginning to surpass the total outstanding of domestic bond and stock markets), these amounts have been increasingly often invested in non-traditional banking assets by entities with a specific mission, set by the public authorities.

The traditional investment vehicles for sovereign wealth in the form of foreign currency reserves have been the debt instruments such as government bonds from the industrialized nations. The low returns on these investments, however, have prompted nations with excess foreign reserves to invest in equities to achieve a higher return. The idea of managing national wealth in a sovereign wealth fund stands in stark contrast to countries which manage national debt. Therefore some politicians in countries with national debt started to question and attack SWFs. The expanded activities of the SWFs over the past several years as well as the increased amounts available to the funds have further stimulated led to indirect claims that the SWFs can destabilize financial markets and the global economy if their investments are motivated by political rather than economic considerations. These claims quickly evaporated once the global crisis set in and the very same governemts realized that they will need the SWFs monies to help alleviate the financial crisis.

[edit] Early SWFs

Sovereign Wealth Funds have been around for decades but since 2000, the number of Sovereign Wealth Funds have increased dramatically. The first SWF was the Kuwait Investment Authority, a commodity SWF created in 1953 from oil revenues before Kuwait even gained independence from Great Britain. According to many estimates, Kuwait's fund is now worth approximately $250 billion.

Another of the first registered SWFs is the Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund of Kiribati. Created in 1956 when the British administration of the Gilbert Islands in Micronesia put a levy on the export of phosphates used in fertilizer, the fund has since then grown to $520m [2].

[edit] Nature and purpose

SWFs are typically created when governments have budgetary surpluses and have little or no international debt. This excess liquidity is not always possible or desirable to hold as money or to channel it into consumption immediately. This is especially the case when a nation depends on raw material exports like oil, copper or diamonds. SWFs may be created to reduce the volatility of government revenues, to counter the boom-bust cycles' adverse effect on government spending and the national economy, or to build up savings for future generations. One such fund is The Government Pension Fund of Norway.

Other reasons for creating SWFs may be economical, or strategic, such as war chests for uncertain times. For example, the Kuwait Investment Authority during the Gulf war managed excess reserves above the level needed for currency reserves (although many central banks do that now). The Government of Singapore Investment Corporation and Temasek Holdings are partially the expression of a desire to bolster Singapore's standing as an international financial centre. The Korea Investment Corporation has since been similarly managed.

[edit] Concerns about SWFs

There are several reasons why the growth of sovereign wealth funds is attracting close attention.

  • As this asset pool continues to expand in size and importance, so does its potential impact on various asset markets.
  • Some countries worry that foreign investment by SWFs raises national security concerns because the purpose of the investment might be to secure control of strategically-important industries for political rather than financial gain.[3] These concerns have led the EU to reconsider whether to allow its members to use "golden shares" to block certain foreign acquisitions.[4] Therefore, this strategy has largely been excluded as a viable option by the EU, for fear it would give rise to a resurgence in international protectionism. In the U.S., these concerns are addressed by the Exon-Florio Amendment to the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988, Pub. L. No. 100-418, § 5021, 102 Stat. 1107, 1426 (codified as amended at 50 U.S.C. app. § 2170 (2000)), as administered by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).
  • Their inadequate transparency is a concern for investors and regulators. For example, size and source of funds, investment goals, internal checks and balances, disclosure of relationships and holdings in private equity funds.
  • SWFs are not nearly as homogeneous as central banks or public pension funds. However they do have a number of interesting and unique characteristics in common. These make them a distinct and potentially valuable tool for achieving certain public policy and macroeconomic goals.[citation needed]

[edit] Meetings & latest developments

  • On August 20, 2008, Germany approved a law that requires parliamentary approval for foreign investments that endanger national interests. Specifically, it will affect acquisitions of more than 25% of a German company's voting shares by non-European investors; but the economics minister, Michael Glos, has pledged that investment reviews would be "extremely rare".[6] The legislation is loosely modelled on a similar one by the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investments.
  • On September 2-3, 2008, at a summit in Chile, the International Working Group of Sovereign Wealth Funds - consisting of the world's main SWFs - agreed to a voluntary code of conduct first drafted by IMF. They are also considering a standing committee to represent them in international policy debates.[7] The 24 principles in the draft will be made public after being presented to the IMF governing council on October 11, 2008.
  • Brazilian Government announces creation of its own Sovereign Fund. A document signed on December 24, 2008, by Brazil's president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva officially introduces the fund (Fundo Soberano Nacional) that should have a initial goal of reaching $20 billion dollars.

The OECD is currently drafting a parallel code of conduct for recipient countries of SWF investments.

[edit] Size of SWFs

Assets under management of SWFs increased 18% in 2008 to reach $3.8 trillion.[8] The losses SWFs incurred on some investments during the past year were more than offset by inflows of new funds. There was an additional $5.5 trillion held in other sovereign investment vehicles, such as pension reserve funds, development funds and state-owned corporations’ funds and also $6.1 trillion in other official foreign exchange reserves.

The largest SWFs with assets over $100 billion are designated the Super Seven funds: Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) ($875 billion); The Government Pension Fund of Norway ($350 billion); Government of Singapore Investment Corporation ($330 billion); Kuwait Investment Authority ($250 billion); China Investment Corporation ($200 billion); Singapore's Temasek Holdings ($159.2 billion); and the Stabilisation Fund of the Russian Federation ($158 billion).

As a proportion of GDP, the five largest funds are: Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Brunei ($30 billion), Kuwait Investment Authority, Qatar Investment Authority ($60 billion) and Singapore's GIC. Smaller funds, such as those held by Azerbaijan, Trinidad & Tobago, Ecuador and Nigeria account for $0.1 trillion of the world's $2.2 trillion total of SWFs.[citation needed]

An important point to note is the SWF to Foreign Reserve Exchange Ratio which shows the proportion a government has invested in investments relative to currency reserves. According to the SWF Institute, most oil producing nations in the gulf have a higher SWF to Foreign Exchange Ratio - for example, the Qatar Investment Authority (5.89x) compared to the China Investment Corporation (.12x) - reflecting a more aggressive stance to seek higher returns.[citation needed]

[edit] Largest sovereign wealth funds

Country Abbreviation Fund Assets $Billion Inception Origin Approx wealth per citizen ($)
Flag of Abu Dhabi Abu Dhabi
( United Arab Emirates)
ADIA Abu Dhabi Investment Authority &0000000000000875.000000875 [9] 1976 Oil &0000000001000000.0000001,000,000
 Norway GPF Government Pension Fund of Norway &0000000000000391.000000391 [10] 1990 Oil &0000000000081500.00000081,500
 Singapore GIC Government of Singapore Investment Corporation &0000000000000330.000000330 [9] 1981 Non-commodity &0000000000100000.000000100,000
 Kuwait KIA Kuwait Investment Authority &0000000000000264.400000264.4 [11] 1953 Oil &0000000000080000.00000080,000
( Canada)
CDPQ Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec &0000000000000214.400000214.4 1965 Pension Funds &0000000000028500.00000028,500
 China CIC China Investment Corporation &0000000000000200.000000200 [12] 2007.09.28 Non-commodity &0000000000000151.000000151
 Singapore Temasek Holdings1 &0000000000000159.200000159.2 [9] 1974 Non-commodity &0000000000035400.00000035,400
 Australia FFMA Australian Government Future Fund &0000000000000081.30000081.3 [13] 2004 Non-commodity &0000000000003900.0000003,900
 Qatar QIA Qatar Investment Authority &0000000000000060.00000060 [14] 2005 Oil &0000000000250000.000000250,000
( United States)
APFC Alaska Permanent Fund &0000000000000040.10000040.1 1976 Oil &0000000000061000.00000061,000
 Libya Libyan Investment Authority &0000000000000050.00000050 2007 Oil &0000000000007200.0000007,200
 Russia RNWF Russian National Wealth Fund &0000000000000084.47000084.47 [15] 2008 Oil 600
 Brunei BIA Brunei Investment Agency &0000000000000030.00000030 1983 Oil &0000000000090100.00000090,100
 South Korea KIC Korea Investment Corporation &0000000000000030.00000030 2005 Non-commodity &0000000000000417.000000417
 Malaysia KN Khazanah Nasional &0000000000000018.30000018.3 1993 Non-commodity &0000000000000658.000000658
 Kazakhstan KNF Kazakhstan National Fund &0000000000000023.00000023.0 2000 Oil &0000000000001170.0000001,170
 China SAFE State Administration of Foreign Exchange n/a n/a Non-commodity n/a
 Taiwan NSF National Stabilisation Fund &0000000000000015.00000015 2000 Non-commodity &0000000000000652.000000652
( Canada)
AHF Alberta Heritage Fund &0000000000000016.60000016.6 1976 Oil & Gas &0000000000005000.0000005,000
 Iran OSF Oil Stabilisation Fund &0000000000000012.90000012.9 1999 Oil &0000000000000174.000000174
Flag of Dubai Dubai
( United Arab Emirates)
DB Dubai World &0000000000000082.00000082 2006 Oil n/a
 Saudi Arabia Sanabil al-Saudia &0000000000000433.000000433 2008 Oil n/a

[edit] See also

[edit] References

Specific references and footnotes:

  1. ^ "Who holds the wealth of nations?". Central Banking Journal (May 2005, Volume 15, Number 4). Retrieved on 2008-09-02. 
  2. ^ "The world's most expensive club". The Economist. 2007-05-24. 
  3. ^ "The invasion of the sovereign-wealth funds". The Economist. 2008-01-17. 
  4. ^ "Sovereign Wealth Funds: The New Hedge Fund?". The New York Times. 2007-08-01. 
  5. ^ "Foreign Government Investment in the U.S. Economy and Financial Sector". U.S. House Financial Services Committee. 2008-03-05. 
  6. ^ "Germany approves law against some foreign investor actions". International Herald Tribune. 2008-08-20. 
  7. ^ "Sovereign funds sign up to code of conduct". Financial Times. 2008-09-09. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b c "Asset-backed insecurity". The Economist. 2008-01-17. 
  10. ^ "Norges Bank balance sheet figures, May 2008 (PDF file)". 
  11. ^ "Kuwait's KIA assets up 14.4 pct at 264.4 bln". Thomson Reuters. 2008-06-20. Retrieved on 2008-06-20. 
  12. ^ "China Investment Corporation unveils investment plan". Xinhua News Agency. 2007-11-07. Retrieved on 2008-09-10. 
  13. ^ "Australian Future Fund". Retrieved on 2008-01-24. 
  14. ^ "UBS Records a Big Write-Down and Sells a Stake". New York Times. 2007-12-10. Retrieved on 2008-06-20. 
  15. ^ "Aggregate amount of the National wealth fund". 2008-09-01. Retrieved on 2008-09-10. 
  16. ^ "Temasek says it is not a sovereign wealth fund". Straits Times. 2008-03-22. 

General references:

[edit] External links

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