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California Political Influence versus Fiduciaries

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CA pensionManaging public pension fund money with multiple stakeholders is a complex undertaking, dealing with politicians and implementing new legislation is even more challenging. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), the largest public pension fund in the United States, reported a 1% return on investments for the twelve months that ended June 30, 2012. It fell short of its benchmark that returned 1.7%. Public equities both U.S. and international took a major hit, while real estate investments helped stabilize portfolio performance. Fund assets measured around US$ 233 billion at the end of the fiscal year.

“The last twelve months were a challenging period for all investors as the ongoing European debt crisis and slowing global economic growth increased market volatility and reduced equity returns,” said Joe Dear, CalPERS Chief Investment Officer. “It’s a clear reminder that we must remain focused on performance, risk and internal controls in today’s financial environment.”

Sovereign wealth funds, public pensions, and other governmental investors tend to invest money outside of their country, state, or territory for various reasons. Some investors have an internal mandate that requires local investment, occasionally at the cost of superior financial return. In sub-Saharan Africa a majority of public investors park money into local projects, real estate, and bonds. Financial returns maybe sacrificed for social gains. This can be confusing for investment managers to prioritize and rank investments. Social returns are also hard to benchmark, it is more of an art than science.

The CalPERS Board of Administration has the sole fiduciary responsibility for the management of CalPERS assets. Depending on the circumstance, there can be tension between public pensions and the California legislature.

Politicians see a giant pot of money, sometimes forgetting that the fund has pension obligations.

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SWFI First Read, May 24, 2018

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Temasek Preps for Astrea IV

A unit of Temasek Holdings is planning to launch Astrea IV, a private equity bond that will have three tranches. One of the tranches is targeted toward retail investors. In total, Astrea IV hopes to be US$ 500 million in size, with a retail tranche worth S$ 242 million.

CONSOLIDATION: FIS Group to Buy Piedmont Advisors

FIS Group agreed to buy Piedmont Investment Advisors. Post-deal, Piedmont will operate as a subsidiary of FIS Group. At the moment, FIS Group oversees roughly US$ 5.6 billion in assets, while Piedmont has approximately US$ 4.7 billion in assets under management.

REPORTS: Funds from Malaysian Central Bank Land Deal Used to Pay for 1MDB Debt Payment

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Norway SWF Votes Down Paris Climate Targets at Shell Shareholder Meeting

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Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), which oversees Norway Government Pension Fund Global, voted down a proposal put forward by some investors at Royal Dutch Shell’s annual general meeting calling on the company to set emissions targets in line with the Paris climate accords of 2015. The challenge was shot down by 94.5% of Shell shareholders at Tuesday’s proceedings. Its defeat was followed by a statement from the oil giant calling the resolution “unnecessary” in light of the firm’s plans revealed in November to halve its carbon footprint by 2050. Some investors believe Shell would be in a better position to set their own goals on addressing issues like climate change.

The US$ 1.1 trillion sovereign wealth fund – which is itself reliant on cash-streams from Norway’s hydrocarbon stores – announced last July it would be asking the banks in which it invests nearly a quarter of its equity assets to disclose how their lending contributes to greenhouse emissions, and is currently considering whether to drop its exposures in oil and gas companies constituting roughly 6% of its overall portfolio ahead of a parliamentary vote on the proposed policy change later this year.

The climate change motion was featured by 60 long-term institutional investors representing more than US$ 10 trillion in assets – including HSBC, BNP Paribas, Fidelity, Swedish buffer fund AP7, France’s ERAFP, and the United Kingdom’s National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) – in an open letter published during the week of May 16th by The Financial Times urging fossil fuel companies to “clarify how they see their future in a low-carbon world,” without going so far as to openly support its approval.

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PSP Investments Finished Deal on Equity Stakes in AEA and AELO in Portugal

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On May 11, 2018, ROADIS, which is owned by PSP Investments, finalized the purchase of equity interests in Portugal´s Auto Estradas do Atlantico (AEA) for 50% ownership and Auto Estradas do Litoral Oeste (AELO) for 60% ownership from MSF Group (Moniz da Maia, Serra & Fortunato, Empreiteiros) and Lena Group (known locally as Grupo Lena). This is ROADIS’ first investment into Portugal.

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