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Russia’s New SWF: National Welfare Fund

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Alexei Kudrin

The Moscow Times reporting that “Russia has made much of its natural wealth, boasting some $157 billion accumulated in the stabilization fund from excess oil revenues. As of Friday, the stabilization fund will be split into the Reserve Fund and the National Welfare Fund.

Russian finance minister Alexei Kudrin reiterated the government’s commitment to investing some of that wealth into financial markets.

The official in Kudrin’s ministry who was until recently in charge of the stabilization fund, Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak, remains in pre-trial detention on fraud and embezzlement charges. Investors have expressed concern over Storchak’s continued detention, seeing in the case a possible threat to Kudrin’s position and to his policy of using the Stabilization Fund to hedge against drastic falls in global demand for oil and gas.”

The National Welfare Fund will initially be invested very conservatively, with the following guidelines:

  • (i) All must be in foreign debt, denominated in USD, EUR or GBP, rated at least AA-, from Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and the US.
  • (ii) At least 50% in foreign government debt, with the rest in foreign private/corporate debt.
  • (iii) Up to 30% in foreign agency debt and central bank debt.
  • (iv) Up to 15% in debt of international financial organizations (ADB, EIB, etc.).
  • (v) Up to 30% in foreign bank deposits.

Cryptocurrencies Creep into the Middle East

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Banking behemoth J.P. Morgan Chase disclosed its own digital currency called JPM Coin. The digital token will be used to settle payments between clients. JPM Coin will be backed by physical U.S. dollars and be based off Quorum. Quorum is J.P. Morgan’s private Ethereum-based chain. JPM Coin plans to compete with Ripple, which created XRP, another digital currency that is used for settlements. Ripple’s main target market is cross-border payments and remittances.

The Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates and the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority have unveiled their plans for Aber, an interbank digital currency. Both banks have indicated that Aber will be limited to financial settlements using distributed ledger technologies. It will be rolled out on a probational basis, and used by select banks within the two countries. A date for rollout has not yet been declared. A joint statement hinted at a broader application of the currency in the days ahead. If “no technical obstacles are encountered, economic and legal requirements for future uses will be considered.”‏ Blockchains and Distributed Ledgers technologies will be employed. The plan is for ‘Proof-of-Concept’ testing, which involves studying and fully comprehending the ways modern technologies can achieve practical applications. The digital currency has the potential to become a reserve system for central payments.

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CPPIB Inks Partnership Vehicle with La Française and its Shareholder CMNE

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La Française and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) formed a strategic partnership for the launch of a real estate investment and development vehicle: Société Foncière et Immobilière du Grand Paris. The joint venture between CPPIB (80%) and Caisse Fédérale du Crédit Mutuel Nord Europe (CMNE) (20%), La Française’s shareholder, will invest in major real estate projects linked to the Grand Paris infrastructure in the Greater Paris area. The parties will initially allocate €387.5 million in equity to the venture. The partnership will target regeneration and infrastructure-led investments.[ Content protected for Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute Standard subscribers only. Please subscribe to view content. ]

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Norges Bank Governor Voices Opinion on Relaxing SWF Withdrawals over Specific Uses

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Øystein Olsen, the Governor of Norges Bank, which oversees the Norway Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), voiced his opinion on the Norwegian government’s plans to alter the rules that regulates the country’s SWF withdrawal rules in certain circumstances. The coalition government led by Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg wants to relax the limits on SWF withdrawals in specific cases. Norway’s government seeks to raid the fund to pay for the replacement of four major state buildings impacted by a terrorist attack and a crashed Royal Norwegian Navy frigate (KNM Helge Ingstad).

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