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Sovereign Wealth Funds Go Gaga for Venture and Tech Investments

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Sovereign wealth funds are betting big on innovation and technology shifts in areas such as cloud computing, consumer mobile, driverless cars and augmented reality to help drive return growth.

A cadre of high-profile wealth funds have set up shop in the San Francisco Bay Area including Temasek Holdings, Khazanah Nasional and GIC. The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) has plans for a west coast office. Why? The trend lines are clear, these savvy institutional investors are keen on getting dealflow and access to Silicon Valley’s latest startups.

According to data from the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute (SWFI), sovereign funds directly invested US$ 13.231 billion into the information technology sector which include mobile, cloud computing, software, e-commerce and other tech industries. In 2010, only US$ 2.06 billion was directly invested in the information technology sector. These tabulated figures only count direct investments, not fund investments. The reasons for the wealth fund ramp up in tech are manifold. First, a greater number of sovereign funds have built up internal resources, moved operations near the battle lines and have expanded business networks, thus increasing deal flow. For example, SWFI hosts conferences, known as Institute Fund Summits, globally in countries such as Singapore, Germany, Hong Kong and the United States. From conversations and increases in wealth fund attendance by internal figures, the consensus seems that wealth funds want more access to deal flow and investment opportunities in a world of “excessive noise”.

Second, sovereign fund behemoths like Singapore’s GIC Private Limited have resiliently formed stable relationships with active tech-focused private equity firms like Silver Lake Partners and Hellman & Friedman. Third, sovereign investors are seen as both strategic and patient capital. Unlike venture funds, sovereign funds like the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) can hold illiquid investments even longer than pension funds and private equity capital. By their very nature, sovereign wealth funds are associated with governments (word – sovereign), which could provide opportunities for startups entering closed or opaque markets.

Unicorns

Unicorns are known as technology startups with a valuation of more than US$ 1 billion. Despite the oil glut and previous excessive volatility in the markets, collectively, sovereign funds amassed a pool of capital exceeding US$ 7.4 billion in assets. Since 2007, these sovereign wealth institutional investors started to become more of a permanent capital source for notable startups, growth companies and unicorns. Many of these investors have bypassed placing capital into venture funds, opting to invest directly.

Sovereign investors have backed a number of storied unicorns such as Uber Technologies, Snap (formerly known as Snapchat), Square, Xiaomi, Flipkart, Airbnb and Spotify. The media had heavily covered Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) US$ 3.5 billion investment into Uber. Did the media properly cover Temasek’s investment in Snap?

Regional Venture Investing

Sovereign funds like Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) remain active in regional venture markets. PIF backed e-commerce startup Noon, while seeing its rival Souq.com get gobbled up by online giant Amazon. In Oman, 500 Startups is raising a MENA fund for startups working with local institutions like the Oman Investment Fund (OIF).

Sovereign funds remain an important pillar of the venture capital and technology investment community.

PSP Investments and Blue Sky Alternative Investments End Strategic Partnership Agreement

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Blue Sky Alternative Investments Limited informed Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments) that it agreed to terminate its strategic agreement effective March 31, 2019. In December 2017, Blue Sky Alternative Investments forged an agreement with PSP Investments to assist in committing capital in a number of agricultural investments.

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Yield-Hungry Korean Insurance Capital Backs TSX Broadway

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Mirae Asset Daewoo Co., Ltd., the Seoul-based investment banking firm, has provided a US$ 375 million loan for a redevelopment in New York’s Times Square. It joins L & L Holding Company, Maefield Development, and Fortress Investment Group who are bringing the development known as TSX Broadway to life. The building is at 1568 Broadway in Manhattan. TSX Broadway, a US$ 2.5 billion project when all equity financing is added in, will allow for renovations and expansion of the 46-storey building. An LED screen, which is not an uncommon sight in the Big Apple, will wrap around the corner of the tower. [ Content protected for Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute Standard subscribers only. Please subscribe to view content. ]

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OFFICIALS: Saudi Crown Prince Denies Interest in Acquiring Manchester United

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The Saudi Arabian government dispelled rumors that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will acquire football club Manchester United. However, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) had talks regarding sponsorship with the football club. Manchester United signed a partnership deal with Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority in 2017.

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