CIC Rises, Dubai’s Istithmar Falls


All SWFs were not created equal, recent activity shows.


(October 1, 2009) – The past month has revealed that all sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) are not created—or act—equal.


The China Investment Company (CIC)—the $300 billion fund profiled in ai5000—has been making waves in both the hedge fund and commodities markets. On the other hand, the Dubai sovereign wealth fund Istithmar—the $10 billion fund lambasted in the inaugural edition of the magazine—has all but locked its doors shut.


In this past week alone, the CIC has bought a 15% stake—at a price tag of $850 million—in the Hong Kong-based Noble Group (which owns a spectrum of resource plays, from mines to farms to ports) as well as a stake in Kazakhstan’s state-run energy company Astana worth nearly $950 million.


The CIC also has made large allocations to hedge funds in recent weeks, including a $1 billion allocation to Los Angeles-based Oaktree Capital Management, a $60 billion fund that specializes in distressed debt and other fixed-income investments.


However, not all SWF are increasing allocations. Istithmar—and, as a corollary, Dubai—has vastly reduced its activity as of late. According to Bloomberg, the fund likely will sell individual assets or get rid of the fund entirely. Earlier this month, the fund announced that its co-chief investment officers would be leaving; the fund’s manager, American David Jackson, is said to be under close scrutiny.


This comes on the heels of a report that suggests that Gulf SWF lost a total of $350 billion since September of 2008. The United Nations’ World Investment Report is stating that that Abu Dhabi Investment Authority was the biggest loser in terms of absolute capital, losing $183 billion on a 2007 base of $453 billion.


This dichotomy is likely a result of previous investment styles. Middle Eastern funds—and Istithmar in particular—were some of the most prominent players in the bubble years, making well-documented and ill-timed moves into American banks before and during the collapse of Lehman Brothers and its aftermath. Large losses followed. The CIC, on the other hand, admitted to losing only 2.1% of its asset value in 2008, allowing it now to increase its risk exposure and scoop up assets at depressed prices.

To contact the <em>aiCIO</em> editor of this story: Kristopher McDaniel at <a href=''></a>