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Debt Ceiling and a Mega Deficit are Concern for Sovereigns

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Uncertainty is the breeding ground for greater risk and volatility; behemoth conservative investors adore certainty. Sovereign funds have the distinct advantage of being long-term investors; however, short-term risk is increasing as uncertainty looms around deficit and debt ceiling issues. The August 2nd debt ceiling deadline is creeping up. No official deal has been approved by all parties involved. The major rating agencies have continued to project concerns on U.S. sovereign ratings for certain scenarios. With regards to sovereign wealth funds, there is a tremendous issue of macroeconomic concern for their investment portfolios and holding companies.

At the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, we predict that there is a 50% chance of a downgrade in the remaining part of 2011 for the United States.

A high probability remains that the United States will not sufficiently address long term deficit issues. Raising taxes or trimming beloved entitlement programs in the midst of a period of high unemployment is politically dangerous. Thus the downgrade could fall into the AA category. There is a slight chance of a debt ceiling rupture. This could possibly lead to a technical default on U.S. treasuries or a default on other U.S. financial obligations. This would be a disastrous scenario that would impact all financial markets.

United States – Gross External Debt Position: March 31, 2011 – Currency Composition of Gross External Debt

Foreign Currency
Short-Term 215,905
Long-Term 956,310
Total 1,172,215
Domestic Currency
Short-Term 4,788,708
Long-Term 6,990,774
Total 11,779,482
Unknown 1,873,611
Gross External Debt 14,825,308

Source: U.S. Treasury – Millions of U.S. Dollars – 6/30/2011

With all this talk, a downgrade to AA for the United States will result in more of an embarrassment, than catastrophic depression. Sovereign funds and other large institutional investors will continue to buy U.S. treasures, but maybe not at the rate of the past five years. In addition, SWFs will perceive U.S. treasuries as no longer a riskless asset, if they haven’t already. The process of diversification from U.S. treasuries would accelerate dramatically whether in countries like Germany or Canada, or gold.

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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USS Backs Rental Housing Platform Managed by PfP Capital

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The £60 billion Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) is providing the majority of the funding toward a joint venture to invest in the U.K. private rented sector.[ Content protected for Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute Standard subscribers only. Please subscribe to view content. ]

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