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Sovereign Wealth and Pensions Enticed by Collateral and CP Business

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sovereign wealth fund collateral

With expanded capital restrictions, especially when it comes to derivatives, traditional banking institutions are dealing with tighter balance sheets. The European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR) and U.S. Dodd-Frank Act have modified the requirements for clearing and collateral. These laws promote the central clearing of standardized over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives contracts. The forced move toward central clearing is feeding a manufactured hunger for more high-quality securities to be used as collateral. Another source of collateral besides banks are sovereign wealth funds and pensions, many which possess massive inventories of high-quality securities. These asset owners are becoming sources of liquidity and typically search for yield opportunities any way they can.

Links between banks and non-banks would become further blurred.

Tail Risk Capital for Counterparties

In late March, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) finalized a deal in which the pension giant partnered with agency securities lending provider eSecLending LLC to make a 1-year repurchase (repo) facility. CalPERS gets paid for backing the repo facility, enhancing the system’s cash return. Essentially, CalPERS and eSecLending would provide Chicago-based Options Clearing Corporation (OCC) a cash draw from CalPERS if a counterparty defaults on a derivative trade. OCC is serious on diversifying its liquidity base which traditionally relied on large banking institutions. John Fennell, Executive Vice President of Financial Risk Management at OCC explains how these arrangements enhance cash returns, “For the fund, they are able to invest in short-term investment funds on an overnight basis while earning a commitment fee from the borrower of the funds. If the lines are ultimately drawn on, the fund earns a higher rate to compensate for the inability to invest the funds overnight.”

Sovereign wealth funds, an institutional investor market surpassing US$ 7 trillion in assets, are a natural source of capital for these types of arrangements. Fennell adds, “I think the aspect of pension funds that makes them attractive to central counterparties is their cash flows that are controlled and not susceptible to runs by clients during times of crisis. Sovereign wealth funds have very similar characteristics which would presumably make them a great alternative for this type of investment. Also, given the size of sovereign wealth funds, this could add a material inventory to the liquidity supply that might be accessible to central counterparties.”

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Petrobras to Spend $320 Million to Hedge Portion of Oil Production

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Revealed on March 22, 2019, Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) spent US$ 320 million on put options as a hedge. Brazil’s state-owned oil company bought the options to hedge part of its crude production for 2019. This is at an equivalent of US$ 60 per Brent oil barrel. The options will expire by the end of 2019.

The put options enable Petrobras to deliver oil at US$ 60 per barrel, but not the obligation to do so.

In a securities filing, Petrobras said, “The strategy is to hedge the export operations expected for the year, that way partially protecting the company’s operational cash flow.”

To compare to 2018, Petrobras is spending less on options in 2019. Petrobras had put options at US$ 65 a barrel, covering 128 million barrels.

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Storebrand Generates Steady Returns for 2017 and 2018

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Norway’s largest private asset manager, Storebrand, had a 13.7% return on equity in 2018. Storebrand now has total assets under management of US$ 82.6 billion. The staggering results topped 2017’s returns of 11.3%. Odd Arild Grefstad, CEO, was keen to point out that “2018 was a good year,” in Storebrand’s annual report. Grefstad also reflected on the peculiarities that were overcome during the year: “Our financial solidity was strengthened and there was an increase in the dividends distributed to shareholders. At the same time, the financial markets experienced turbulence at the end of the year, in a somewhat uncertain macroeconomic situation.”

Last year, new initiatives were implemented to bolster sustainable investments. The fund is also pushing to improve water management. Another investment coming this year will address deforestation. That will include tackling soy and palm oil farming, and cattle ranching. Grefstad addressed Storebrand’s “green” priorities: “The financial industry is an important contributor in the efforts to limit global warming, and we have a clear strategy . . . we have strict environmental, climate, and sustainability criteria for all our investments.”

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Biogen and Eisai Battered by Markets Over Alzheimer’s Trial Fail

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Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Biogen Inc. (BIIB) took a tumble of 28% in the morning of March 21st after it announced that it would cease its Phase 3 trials of Aducanumab. The therapy was intended to slow cognitive decline in patients with early onset Alzheimer’s. Biogen continued falling on March 22, 2019. Biogen and its Japanese development partner Eisai Co., Ltd. (ESALY) shared that the decision was based on results from an analysis conducted by an independent committee. The analysis determined that the trials were not going to demonstrate that Aducanumab could slow cognitive impairment. Eisai also fell 28% on the day, though it staged a relatively modest recovery on March 22nd. Some large institutional holders of Biogen include APG Asset Management (manager of Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP), Norges Bank Investment Management (manager of Norway Government Pension Fund Global), and Swiss National Bank.

The last time a treatment for Alzheimer’s made it to market was in 2003. [ Content protected for Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute Standard subscribers only. Please subscribe to view content. ]

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