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France’s FSI Celebrates Its Third Anniversary

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By Alexia Wai-Chun Tye

Guest Contributor

On 17 November 2011, representatives of the French financial, industrial and private equity community were invited to a celebration to mark the 3rd anniversary of the creation of France’s Fonds Stratégique d’Investissement (FSI) at the Elysées presidential palace.

President Nicolas Sarkozy congratulated the sovereign wealth fund on its achievements since its creation in 2008: a total of Euro 5.9bn invested in French companies, small and large.

He also announced the establishing of 3 successor funds focused on 3 sectors: aeronautics (Aerofund 2), healthcare (InnoBio MedTech) and nuclear energy.

The event was relatively discrete, and observers noted that the President was obliged to make some new announcements on the subject of the financing of French small and medium sized companies (SMEs), an area he champions closely. The mandate of the FSI remains quite different from that of major SWFs – it is mainly inward-looking and designed as a pillar of France’s industrial policy. One of the chief objectives is to support the development of future champions of French industry, throughout the value chain, down to the smallest subcontractor. Its investments have been chiefly to insulate French SMEs from hostile takeovers, rescue distressed companies or meet financing needs that the rest of the financial markets cannot provide. Indeed France has several investment and credit entities with a multiplicity of programs to assist the development of SMEs. These institutions include CDC Entreprises (a subsidiary of French state institution Caisse des Dépôts, also the 51% parent of the FSI), OSEO, Avenir Entreprises, etc, and the challenge is how to make them all work effectively together.

To delve deeper into the French local regions, Sarkozy wants to create a new fund called FSI-Régions. He did acknowledge that there would be a slowdown in the pace of investment because of the current crisis, and made no mention of new capital injections for the FSI. He stressed that the FSI, whilst serving the national interest, aims to make a reasonable profit, “but not obscene levels of profit like hedge funds”. He also lashed out at the banks, saying that they should declare less bonuses and dividends, and concentrate more on lending to industry. In spite of the pressure to meet new capital adequacy standards, the banks must not neglect the SMEs, he said.

The reaction of the attendees was mixed. Aside from questions over its purpose, the FSI has also been criticized for investing in companies that have sold defense systems to the Libyan and Syrian regimes.

No mention of an international strategy was made – cooperation and co-investment with foreign investors could serve to attract the additional capital that the FSI needs.

Alexia Wai-Chun Tye is a Partner at AddVenture, a private equity advisory firm.

The views, opinions, positions or strategies expressed by guest contributors and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, positions or strategies of the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute or any employee thereof.

SWFI First Read, December 10, 2018

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IMF Bentham Opens New London Office

IMF Bentham Limited opened a new London office called IMF Litigation Funding Services Limited. The division will provide litigation finance, investment capital and strategic services for disputes in the EMEA region, which includes the United Kingdom, Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

Falck Renewables Buys Portfolio of Windfarms in France

A subsidiary of Falck Renewables acquired a portfolio of five onshore windfarms in north-eastern and western France from a fund affiliated with Glennmont Partners for €37 million. The sale was due to the fund’s divestment plan. These windfarms are located in Bois Ballay, Les Coudrays, Mazeray, Eol Team, and Noyales.

Carlos Ghosn Charged by Japanese Prosecutors

Japan government prosecutors indicted Carlos Ghosn, the former chairman of Nissan Motor, and the auto company. The indictment accuses the parties of violating Japanese financial laws by underreporting his compensation. Nissan disclosed Ghosn’s misconduct which included underreporting his compensation and using corporate funds for personal expenses.

OIF Plans to Go Defensive on Public Equities

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First Inning on Augmented Reality a Strike for SWFs

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Augmented reality (AR), which is not the same as virtual reality, is an industry that sovereign wealth capital has slowly permeated. The impressive technology has not made inroads into mainstream U.S. culture – remember Google’s efforts with Google Glasses. However, these augmented reality glasses may have industrial purposes such as in car production or logistics.

Malaysia’s Khazanah Nasional Berhad backed London-based Blippar, an augmented reality studio company. Blippar appears to be on the brink of financial collapse, according to a number of media sources. There is a dispute between investors Khazanah and Nick Candy, in which the SWF had blocked emergency fundraising. This fundraising effort would have most likely lowered Khazanah’s equity stake. In June 2018, Blippar raised an extra £20 million from investors to keep things running. David Rubin & Partners LLP was hired by Blippar as insolvency practitioners.

Magic Leap

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PREVIEW COVER: January Issue of the Sovereign Wealth Quarterly

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Here is a mockup cover of the next issue of the Sovereign Wealth Quarterly, the top publication on sovereign funds, pensions, and other institutional investors.

For advertising opportunities: https://www.swfinstitute.org/advertise/

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