Thursday 11th February 2016
NEWS TICKER: Following a recent Morningstar Analyst Ratings meeting, the firm has downgraded the Morningstar Analyst Rating for the L&G All Stocks Index Linked Gilt Index fund to Bronze. The fund previously held a Silver rating. Jose Garcia Zarate, senior fund analyst at Morningstar says, “We continue to have a positive view on the fund’s price, its tracking accuracy, and the parent company’s commitment to the provision of passive investing solutions. However, we have concluded that the heavily long-dated nature of the underlying market exposes investors to a volatile return profile over a market cycle. In particular, a rules-based passive fund tracking this market is particularly vulnerable to the downside relative to category peers that have the discretion to tweak duration. As such, we feel a Bronze rating reflects more accurately our conviction in this fund’s ability to outperform its category peers over a full market cycle.” - The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) says it has rescheduled the Technology Advisory Committee (TAC) public meeting to Tuesday, February 23rd, from 9:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., at CFTC’s Washington, DC headquarters. The meeting was originally scheduled for January 26, but was cancelled because Federal Government offices in the Washington Metropolitan Area were closed due to inclement weather. The TAC will discuss: the CFTC’s proposed Regulation Automated Trading (Reg AT); swap data standardisation and harmonization; and blockchain and the potential application of distributed ledger technology to the derivatives market. The CFTC says members of the public who wish to submit written statements in connection with the meeting should submit them by Monday, February 22nd - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called a ministerial meeting this morning to discuss the latest key domestic developments including the open issues whose implementation is required for the completion of the 1st programme review as well as farmers’ escalating protests against the planned overhaul of the income tax and the social security pension system, says Eurobank in Athens. Minister of Finance Euclid Tsakalotos warned earlier this week that the programme review should conclude by the end of February noting that Greece will be “in trouble” if it carries on into May-June - India’s Power, coal and renewable energy minister Piyush Goyal yesterday offered a $1trn prize to Australian power and energy firms to come and invest in the country’s power sector. Goyal's pitch comes as the government is pegging economic growth at 7.3% for Q4 2015, marking a slight drop on previous quarters but still outpacing China. Goyal says India's power sector is at an inflection point as the Modi government is focusing on structural reforms with an integrated outlook for the energy sector – Tomorrow (February 11th), the Latvian parliament (Saeima) will hold a vote of confidence on the new composition of the Cabinet of Ministers set up by incoming premier Māris Kučinskis. The first ceremonial sitting of the new government will be held tomorrow at 15.00 in the Green Hall of the Cabinet of Ministers. Ināra Mūrniece, acting president and speaker of the Saeima will also participate in the sitting - freemarketFX, the currency exchange, has appointed services veteran Rich Ricci as Chairman. Formerly CEO of Barclays Corporate and Investment Banking - JP Morgan Asset Management has appointed Paul Farrell as head of UK Institutional Clients. Based in London, Farrell will join JPMAM in April and will report to Patrick Thomson, head of International Institutional Clients. Farrell will be responsible for leading the sales team that manages and builds client relationships with Institutional Pension Funds in the UK & Ireland. He will have responsibility for direct client relationship management in the defined benefit as well as business development in the defined contribution marketplace and will work closely with our consultant client team led by Karen Roberton. Farrell joins most recently from Dimensional Fund Advisors, where he served as Head of UK Institutional Clients and was responsible for new business development, client service and consultant relations. Before that he was head of UK Strategic Clients at BlackRock - Vistra Group, a provider of fund admin services, has bought UK-based business expansion services provider Nortons Group, the accounting and advisory service. The Nortons team, led by Andrew Norton and Pete Doyle, is joining the Vistra Group to boost their existing range of services and benefit from Vistra’s global reach. Martin Crawford, CEO of Vistra Group, says: “Offering support services to companies moving abroad is a core business for Vistra and of growing importance. Nortons has the expertise, the experienced staff, and the network to add significant value to this service line. We are very proud to welcome Andrew Norton, Pete Doyle, and their colleagues to our international team and look forward to expanding our global reach with their experience and leadership". The acquisition of Nortons is expected to complete by the end of February and will take the combined headcount of the Vistra Group, inclusive of the soon to be merged Orangefield Group, to over 2,200 staff in 39 countries - Asian markets had another tough day. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average fell 2.3% to its lowest closing level since late 2014, and reaffirming a trend across the last few months the yen remained near its strongest level against the dollar in over a year. Despite the Bank of Japan's decision last month to introduce negative interest rates, a policy that tends to weaken the local currency, the yen has strengthened in recent sessions to levels not seen since 2014. The Japanese 10-year treasury yield traded shortly in negative territory, and touched -0.08%, before stabilising above the neutral mark. The dollar was last up 0.1% against the yen at ¥ 115.00. Australia's S&P ASX 200 fell 1.2%, the downward drift being led by energy stocks. The Australian Dollar consolidated yesterday’s gains and is currently testing the next resistance, which lies at $0.71. AUD/USD up 0.21 in local trading. Other Asian currencies did well today against the dollar. The South Korean won rose 0.74%, the Taiwanese dollar edged up 0.60%, while the Indian rupiah climbed 1.05%. That uptick was not reflected in equity markets. The Topix index slid 3.02%. In Singapore the STI slipped 2.14%, while New Zealand equities were down 0.85% respectively. China's markets are still closed for the Lunar New Year holidays – The story today is all about Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen’s testimony to the US Congress. Analysts say that the market is pricing in no further rate increases in the near future and given the volatility in the markets and the general air of panic right now among investors, it would be a catastrophic move for the Fed to raise interest rates even a quantum in coming months. Truth is that no matter how well Yellen paints the US economy is it a story of two halves: yes, job numbers are rising, but there looks to be a lot of slack in the overall economy and this is contributing to a gradual weakening of the US dollar (but not against the euro). In fact, Europe is making the US look good; hence the wild swings in investor sentiment. Still, bank stocks look to remain vulnerable for the remainder of the quarter. This week's economic calendar is light; hence the focus on the Fed. The other bit of advanced market news is that expectations are rising for a rate cut by Norges Bank. Emerging market currencies are broadly trading higher this morning. The South African rand rose 0.85% against the US dollar, with USD/ZAR back below the 16.0 mark at around 15.9350. The Russian ruble also took advantage of this respite and gained 0.65% versus the greenback, which helped USD/RUB to edge lower to 79.10. In terms of data, watch out for industrial and manufacturing production figures from France, the UK and Italy and CPI data from Denmark and Norway - In commodities, Brent crude oil was last up 2.4% at $31.05 a barrel in thin trade on speculation about possible production cuts, but remains down nearly 9% for the week and roughly 19% for the year. Peter Rosenstreich, head of market strategy at Swissquote Bank explains, "Crude oil has been able to rebound off the 12-year low ($27.78) after falling sharply by nearly 8% on Tuesday. The positive catalyst was the news that Iran has indicated that they would be willing to work with Saudi Arabia on production limits. However, markets remain sceptical of this or any coordinated production cuts. There seems to be no relief on selling pressure in sight as the US government released reports indicating that demand will remain soft by lower demand growth forecasts. In addition, the Paris based International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that the supply glut will continue through 2016 as production cuts have been made at a slower pace than forecasted.” In other market news this morning, spot gold in London was down 0.2% at $1188.05 an ounce, while three-month copper futures on the London Metal Exchange fell 0.7% to $4,463 a ton.

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Sovereign wealth funds investing locally

Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Sovereign wealth funds investing locally Sovereign governments and sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) are investing less internationally than they have done at any point in the last three years, according to the third annual Invesco Middle East Asset Management Study. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) sovereign states have deployed wealth into local economies throughout the Arab Spring and SWFs show signs of diverting away from international trophy assets and other global investments. The findings come as something of a surprise given the current penchant for some of the GCC’s most high profile SWFs to continue to invest in strategic companies abroad. However, says the study, sovereign wealth fund surpluses may reduce despite oil price rises as local investment continues. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

Sovereign governments and sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) are investing less internationally than they have done at any point in the last three years, according to the third annual Invesco Middle East Asset Management Study. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) sovereign states have deployed wealth into local economies throughout the Arab Spring and SWFs show signs of diverting away from international trophy assets and other global investments. The findings come as something of a surprise given the current penchant for some of the GCC’s most high profile SWFs to continue to invest in strategic companies abroad. However, says the study, sovereign wealth fund surpluses may reduce despite oil price rises as local investment continues.

Invesco’s study has analysed sovereign revenues and defined the investment behaviours of major SWFs in the GCC region. These SWFs account for 35% of global SWF flows, representing $1.6 trn, a huge market which major global economies, including the UK, rely on for investment. This is Invesco’s third asset management study of the GCC region (comprising the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman). 

Invesco worked with independent strategy consultants NMG to conduct an in-depth market study based on over 100 face-to-face interviews on retail and institutional investor preferences across the GCC. The study shows the international flow of money directly from GCC sovereign governments and from SWFs has changed considerably in light of the current unrest, with large commodity-linked surpluses in these regions increasingly being put to use locally. (Please refer to Figure 1)



Even so, and despite stable and high oil prices, the available surplus, or investable assets, of governments in the GCC region is forecast to reduce by 9% in 2012 (compared to 2011) and surplus forecasts have been revised downwards since the Arab Spring, says the study. This is illustrated by the fact that forecast funding rates for the recipient SWFs have declined this year.

The findings of the survey look to undermine some of the latest news to emerge from the mega SWFs of the GCC. The Qatar Investment Authority, one of the largest and most diversified sovereign wealth funds in the GCC for example continues to veer from the norm. The latest news from the Gulf is that the SWF is about to increase its allocation to Shell, which will add to a growing roster of western investments by the fund. The Anglo-Dutch company declined to say what the size of the QIA holding is, but stock exchange rules in the United Kingdom meant that any stake over 3% will automatically trigger a public statement. Other reports suggest that the Qataris are in the middle of negotiations to buy a stake in Italian oil major ENI. It already holds a minority stake in Total, the French energy group. The QIA has also recently bought into Xstrata, as well as Barclays Bank.         

Moreover, Abu Dhabi’s normally secretive SWF opened up last October with the release of an official report which showed that the sovereign wealth fund remains diversified across all major global markets. Although over a year old, according to the report, ADIA’s assets are largely allocated to developed equity investments. With an estimated $350bn in assets, the fund allocates 60% of its total portfolio to externally-managed indexed funds. Overall, roughly 80% of the fund’s assets are invested by external fund managers. Allocations to developed equity markets constitute 35% to 45% of the fund’s portfolio. Emerging market equities make up 10% to 20%. Government bonds make up 10% to 20% of the portfolio.

In terms of geographic prevalence, ADIA allocates 35% to 50% in North America, 25% to 35% in Europe, 10% to 20% in developed Asia, and 15% to 25% in emerging markets, according to the report. However, Invesco’s latest study may point to a sea change. The Invesco study did not elucidate the detailed investment strategies of individual funds.        

There are other deals in train. Most recently new banking venture NBNK has  reportedly held talks with Middle Eastern SWFs to bolster its bid for 632 Lloyds branches that are up for sale, according to a recent Reuters news item; NBNK refused to com­ment. The venture was set up in 2010 by former Lloyd’s of London insurance head Peter Levene, aiming to bring com­petition to a market dominated by four lenders. It is run by former Barclays and Northern Rock executive Gary Hoffman. Separately, the UK’s Sunday Telegraph reported that NBNK had held discussions with Qatar Holdings and Abu Dhabi's Mubadala fund.

One of the fund’s subsidiaries, Mubadala Healthcare (a business unit of Mubadala Development Company) and Dubai Health Authority (DHA) have signed a memorandum of under­standing to discuss several key collab­or­ation areas that will facilitate knowledge-sharing, partnership initi­atives and improved access to care for patients in Dubai. The initial areas for collaboration outlined in the MOU relate specifically to three of Mubadala Healthcare’s facilities—Wooridul Spine Centre, Tawam Molecular Imaging Centre and National Reference Laboratory—and focus on the facili­tation of patient and laboratory test referrals, knowledge exchange and the inclusion of these facilities in the Gov­ernment of Dubai’s Enaya network.

While the investment approaches of the GCC SWFs remain mixed, one thing looks certain. According to Invesco’s study, in 2011 funding rates grew at 13% compared to an increase in GCC government revenue of 25%, this year funding rates rose just 8%, despite GCC government revenue increasing by 31%. Funding for sovereign pension funds on the other hand rose from 8% growth in 2011 to 13% growth in 2012. There is an expectation that spending will continue to increase over time potentially outstripping commodity prices and shrinking surpluses further.

Of the sovereign surplus that is available for SWFs, those with local objectives are expected to benefit. Invesco forecasts SWF assets invested in benchmark driven SWFs who prioritise international asset manager products or ETFs have fallen by 1% since the beginning of the ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011. At the same time sovereign wealth fund assets allocated to SWFs investing locally, in infrastructure for example, have risen by 10%7, which illustrates a major shift (see Figure 2).

Nick Tolchard, head of Invesco Middle East commented: “It’s clear that sovereign states are redirecting revenues and SWF assets from international investments back into the Middle East. The most common change across the region is money into local wage inflation, with healthcare and education a real focus for Saudi Arabia and Oman. Major infrastructure is a focus for Qatar due to the World Cup, and there are significant developments taking place in Abu Dhabi as it seeks to grow and set up as a major financial centre.”

Tolchard continues: “Western governments, including the UK, have approached SWFs from the Middle East to help with economic recovery, but many will fight a losing battle. There is certainly less money to invest internationally so the stakes are higher. Those courting GCC money from outside the region will only win with a deep understanding of what is driving the thinking of SWFs, and a long term commitment to building ­bi-lateral relationships which add value to their investment policy.”

Last year, Invesco created the first ever framework that categorises the core objectives of SWFs and revealed the drivers behind the investment strategy and preferences of these huge investment funds.

Last year, the study revealed that traditional investment SWFs (diversification vehicles and asset managers) appeared to be favouring developed markets, with around 54% of GCC SWF assets held in this region with the highest exposure to North America (29%) and to Western Europe (19%). Investment in North America is now down this year at 14% and Western Europe down at 6%, as a result of the Eurozone crisis. The clear shift in terms of geographic allocation of investment money has been towards the local region. Investment in assets related to the GCC moved up from 33% to 56%, with local bonds seeing a rise from 6% of SWF investable assets to 14%. Property and infrastructure have also take a large proportion of the investable assets from these SWFs, 13% and 14% respectively.

 “The story this year is that it is no longer a given that large sovereign governments are going to direct their oil revenue surpluses around the globe, pumping cash into other global economies. There will be high profile, strategic investments like the proposed RBS deal, or indeed other large trophy assets, but it’s a changed market. There will be contestable assets for fund managers in core relevant markets but with more money being deployed into the local economies it is likely to be a much more competitive landscape as long as the unrest continues,” says Tolchard.

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