Saturday 6th February 2016
NEWS TICKER: Friday, February 5th: According to Reuters, Venezuela's central bank has begun negotiations with Deutsche Bank AG to carry out gold swaps to improve the liquidity of its foreign reserves as it faces debt payments of some $9.5bn this year. Around 64% of Venezuela's $15.4bn reserves are held in gold bars, which in this fluid market impedes the central bank's ability to mobilise hard currency for imports or debt service. We called the central bank to confirm the story, but press spokesmen would not comment - The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) says official foreign currency reserves stood at $357bn (equivalent to seven times the currency in circulation or 48% of Hong Kong M3) as at the end of January, down compared with reserve assets of $358.8bn in December. There were no unsettled foreign exchange contracts at month end (end-December: $0.1bn) - BNP Paribas today set out plans to cut investment banking costs by 12% by 2019 to bolster profitability and reassure investors about the quality of its capital buffers. The bank is the latest in a line of leading financial institutions, including Credit Suisse, Barclays and Deutsche Bank which look to be moving away from capital intensive activities. BNP Paribas has been selling non-core assets and cutting back on operations including oil and gas financing for the last few years as it looks to achieve a target of 10% return on equity. Last year the bank announced a €900m write-down on its BNL unit in Italy, which pushed down Q4 net income down 51.7% to €665m - Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)-listed tech company, Huge Group, will move its listing from the Alternative Exchange (AltX) to the JSE main board on March 1st - Moody's says it has assigned Aaa backed senior unsecured local-currency ratings to a drawdown under export credit provider Oesterreichische Kontrollbank's (OKB) (P)Aaa-rated backed senior unsecured MTN program. The outlook is negative in line with the negative outlook assigned to the Aaa ratings of the Republic of Austria, which guarantees OKB’s liabilities under the Austrian Export Financing Guarantees Act – As the first phase of talks between Greece and its creditors draws to an end, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde stressed to journalists in Greece that debt relief is as important as the reforms that creditors are demanding, notably of the pension system. "I have always said that the Greek program has to walk on two legs: one is significant reforms and one is debt relief. If the pension [system] cannot be as significantly and substantially reformed as needed, we could need more debt relief on the other side." Greece's pension system must become sustainable irrespective of any debt relief that creditors may decide to provide, Lagarde said, adding that 10% of gross domestic product into financing the pension system, compared to an average of 2.5% in the EU, is not sustainable. She called for "short-term measures that will make it sustainable in the long term,” but did not outline what those measures might be. According to Eurobank in Athens, IMF mission heads reportedly met this morning with the Minister of Labour, Social Insurance and Social Solidarity, Georgios Katrougalos, before the team is scheduled to leave Athens today. According to the local press, it appears that differences exist between the Greek government and official creditors on the planned overhaul of the social security pension system. Provided that things go as planned, the heads are reportedly expected to return by mid-February with a view to completing the review by month end, or at worst early March. In its Winter 2016 Economic Forecast published yesterday, the European Commission revised higher Greece’s GDP growth forecast for 2015 and 2016 to 0.0% and -0.7%, respectively, from -1.4% and 1.-3% previously - Fitch says that The Bank of Italy's (BoI) recent designation of three banks as 'other systemically important institutions' (O-SIIs) has no impact on its ratings of the relevant mortgage covered bond (Obbligazioni Bancarie Garantite or OBG) programmes. Last month, BoI identified UniCredit, Intesa Sanpaolo. and Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena as Italian O-SIIs. Banco Popolare and Mediobanca have not been designated O-SIIs. This status is the equivalent of domestic systemically important bank status under EU legislation. Fitch rates two OBG programmes issued by UC and one issued by BMPS, which incorporates a one-notch Issuer Default Rating (IDR) uplift above the banks' IDRs. The uplift can be assigned if covered bonds are exempt from bail-in, as is the case with OBG programmes under Italy's resolution regime and in this instance takes account of the issuers' importance in the Italian banking sector – Meantime, according to local press reports, Italian hotel group Bauer and special opportunity fund Blue Skye Investment Group report they have completed the rescheduling and refinancing of Bauer’s €110m debt through the issue of new bonds and the sale of non-core assets, such as the farming business Aziende Agricole Bennati, whose sale has already been agreed, the Palladio Hotel & Spa and a luxury residence Villa F in Venice’s Giudecca island – Meantime, Russian coal and steel producer Mechel has also agreed a restructuring of its debt with credits after two intense years of talks. The mining company, is controlled by businessman Igor Zyuzin - Asian markets had a mixed day, coming under pressure. Dollar strengthening worries investors in Asia; from today’s trading it looks like dollar weakening does as well. Actually, that’s not the issue, the dollar has appreciated steadily over the last year as buyers anticipated Fed tightening; but it has hurt US exports and that has contributed to investor nervousness over the past few weeks, which is why everyone is hanging on today’s The nonfarm payrolls report, a bellwether of change – good or bad in the American economic outlook. Back to Asia. The Nikkei 225 ended the day at 16819.15, down 225.40 points, or 1.32%; and as the stock market fell the yen continued to strengthen. The Nikkei has shed 5.85% this week. The dollar-yen pair fell to the 116-handle, at 116.82 in afternoon trade; earlier this week, the pair was trading above 120. It is a hard lesson for the central bank, whose efforts to take the heat out of the yen by introducing negative interest rates has done nothing of the sort. Australia's ASX 200 closed down 4.15 points, or 0.08% after something of a mixed week. The index closed at 4976.20, with the financial sector taking most of the heat today, with the sector down 0.7%. In contrast, energy and materials sectors finished in positive territory, buoyed by gains in commodities. The Hang Seng Index closed at 19288.17, up 105.08 points (or 0.55%) while the Shanghai Composite was down 0.61%. down 17.07 points to 2763.95. The Shenzhen composite dropped 20.36 points (1.15%) to 1750.70, while the Kospi rose marginally by 0.08% to 1917.79. Today is the last day of trading on the Chinese exchanges for a week.

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Sovereign wealth funds move to real estate investments

Monday, 11 March 2013
Sovereign wealth funds move to real estate investments Sovereign wealth funds around the world are moving to diversify their portfolios, according to TheCityUK’s Sovereign Wealth Funds 2013 report, with deal transaction sizes getting smaller and emerging markets accounting for a growing share of investments.  http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

Sovereign wealth funds around the world are moving to diversify their portfolios, according to TheCityUK’s Sovereign Wealth Funds 2013 report, with deal transaction sizes getting smaller and emerging markets accounting for a growing share of investments. 

The trend towards diversification has resulted in a 30% increase in investment into real estate globally by SWFs over the past twelve months, with information technology and consumer goods also seeing rises in allocation. The allocation increase is largely down to low bond yields in some developed countries and the volatility in equity markets.

The UK, particularly London, has benefited from SWFs’ increased allocation to real estate. Recent transactions include China Investment Corporation’s £245m purchase of Winchester House, the London headquarters of Deutsche Bank.  Gingko Tree Investment, part of China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange, has also invested more than $1.6bn in at least four deals including water utility, student housing, and office buildings in London and Manchester.



Other funds which have made real-estate investments in London during 2012 include The Korea Investment Corporation, the State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global.

TheCityUK’s report also found that overall direct investments by SWFs dropped to a six-year low of $57bn globally in 2012. This was down more than a third on 2011 and 46% below the peak level of activity three years earlier, as SWFs focused more on their domestic markets. However, investments picked up in the fourth quarter of the year.

Chris Cummings, chief executive of TheCityUK, says the increased investment in property by SWFs is a blessing for London, which is a prime real estate location and seen as a safe haven market for investors.

“The UK is a leading destination for SWF investments, accounting for one sixth of global investments since 2005, second only to the US, and attracting more capital than France, Germany and Spain combined,” explains Cummings. “These investments bring numerous benefits to the UK economy, including new jobs and capital for vital infrastructure projects.

“But the UK is also an important centre for the SWF industry as a clearing house for transactions and a location from where funds are managed. Our strong position stems from the structural strengths associated with the cluster of financial and related professional services firms, broad skills base, open market and pivotal international position of English law.”

TheCityUK’s report revealed that global SWF assets under management increased for the fourth year running in 2012, hitting a record $5.2tn, due to growth in existing assets as well as the launch of a number of new funds during the year. TheCityUK’s projections are for total global SWF assets to grow to $5.6tn by the end of 2013.

There was an additional $7.7tn held in other sovereign investment vehicles, such as pension reserve funds, development funds and state-owned corporations' funds, and $8.4tn in other official foreign exchange reserves.

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