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Mainland China Experiencing Slowdown in Wealth Fund Direct Deals

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With China experiencing a deceleration in economic growth, heightened geopolitical tensions, and rising risks in the country’s traditional financial sector, wealth fund direct investments have slowed down to a crawl in 2016 compared to 2015.

Direct Transactions into Mainland China by Sovereign Wealth Funds – Billions USD

Source: Sovereign Wealth Fund Transaction Database, Extracted February 7, 2017.

Source: Sovereign Wealth Fund Transaction Database, Extracted February 7, 2017.

Even though there is an abundance of institutional investor capital chasing deals globally, the number of suitable opportunities for these large sovereign investors within China shrunk, as well as deal size. This had required both cash-rich wealth funds and pensions to augment on-the-ground resources across Asia. In reality, overseas wealth funds, at times, are competing against adventurous Canadian pensions, deep-pocketed corporate investors, private equity firms and domestic players when it comes to investing in Chinese emerging companies. Lucrative Chinese initial public offerings are competitive.

While overall direct deals made by wealth funds slightly pulled back in 2016, mainland China suffered a significant reduction in incoming direct sovereign investor capital. According to data from the Sovereign Wealth Fund Transaction Database (SWFTD), wealth funds directly invested US$ 4.05 billion in mainland China in 2016 versus US$ 13.16 billion in 2015. In 2014, the figure was US$ 8.096. The United States was a beneficiary for 2016 when it came to direct sovereign fund transactions. However, according to SWFI Compass, an RFP and opportunity tracking service, external fund mandates toward mainland China were in demand by both wealth funds and pensions across the United States.

Realignment

Wealth funds are also realigning their Asia portfolios, seeking to lower exposure toward traditional financial institutions, while trying to identify investments in China’s consumer, technology and real estate sectors. In 2015, HIP China Logistics Investments Ltd., a sovereign wealth enterprise of the Abu Dhabi Investment Council (ADIC), kicked in US$ 750 million more toward its joint venture with Prologis Inc. called Prologis China Logistics Venture. Meanwhile, some sovereign funds were selling bank stocks. For example, in early 2017, according to Hong Kong filings, Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) trimmed 3.84 million H shares of Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. The shares were sold at an average price of HK$ 3.26 per share on January 27, 2017. Post-transaction, the QIA has a 11.99% stake in the Agricultural Bank of China from its previous 12% ownership stake.

Despite these headwinds, mainland China is on track to have more initial public offerings from very large Chinese companies. One example is China Reading (also known as Yuewen Group), China’s biggest online publishing and e-book company. China Reading, which is backed by Chinese giant Tencent Holdings, hopes to raise up to US$ 800 million in a 2017 IPO.

Maiden Lane I Ends, Federal Reserve Aims to Shrink Balance Sheet

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The U.S. Federal Reserve’s balance sheet has been set to decline automatically since 2017, as the central bank has been liquidating funds from its US$ 4 trillion in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities. As holdings matured, the Fed refrained from reinvesting them. This amounts to US$ 40 billion in monetary tightening monthly. Meanwhile, interest rates have slowly, and continuously, risen. The maturation of these Fed assets could exert upward pressure on long-term yields.

Mortgage rates, applications, and home sales have been falling, likely due to the rising rates. While rates are still historically low, U.S. President Trump has criticized the rate hikes. However, the Fed has no interest in changing course, and rates are set to continue to rise. According to Fed meeting minutes, “The Chairman suggested that the Committee would likely resume a discussion of operating frameworks in the fall.”

The size and content of the Fed balance sheet going forward will be a point of discussion for Chairman Jerome Powell. While there is no end in sight for the Fed’s plans to tighten economic policy, changing conditions may warrant further examination. With the U.S. stock market thriving, there is no indication that tightening has had a material impact on the economy. However, conventional wisdom asserts that the Fed will raise rates “until something breaks.” Market commentators have also suggested that, in the event of an emergency, the Fed will have a harder time stepping in due to the size of its balance sheet. A large part of the Fed’s monetary strategy is based around communications, and Fed-watchers have made a habit of hanging on every word. The Fed announced a shrinking balance sheet well in advance, and made gradual moves in that direction. The process has been smooth thus far. The Fed’s tightening will reach its peak, US$ 50 billion, in October. It is unclear exactly how much stimulus is still needed in the economy to reach the Fed’s 2% inflation target. The Fed’s easing policies have been criticized for the lopsided benefits they provided, more for Wall Street than Main Street. However, the easing will reduce their role in the market.

The End of Maiden Lane I

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QIA Gets a New CEO

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Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Al-Thani exited as CEO of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA). He has been appointed as minister of state by Amiri Order No. (4) of 2018.

Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al-Mahmoud is appointed as the new CEO of QIA. He held positions in various organizations such as CEO of Qatar Development Bank and worked at Qatar Museums.

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SWFI First Read, September 19, 2018

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QIA Eyes Investment in Chinese Lender Lufax

The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) is in talks about a possible investment into Shanghai-based Lufax, one of China’s largest online lenders. The seller of the possible stake is China’s Ping An Insurance (Group) Co. Ltd. Lufax’s official name is Shanghai Lujiazui International Financial Asset Exchange Co. Ltd.

Wealth Funds Back Hotpot Giant

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