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绿色主权财富

2013-05-15 15:31

2011年底,主权财富基金所管理的资产总额为3万亿美元,当年237项直接投资价值810亿美元。一些专家甚至估计主权财富基金的资产价值为6万亿美元。这意味着主权财富基金,国家资本主义的化身,是现在世界对冲基金,自由资本主义过度行为图腾的两倍。

日益增长的主权财富基金引起了人们的担忧——并且,在某些情况下,引发恶毒的批评——尤其是在经合组织国家,许多人担心金融、经济和政治权力的再分配。事实上,控制主权财富基金资产超过三分之二的7个主权财富基金中有3个来自亚洲(1个来自中国和两个来自新加坡),而三个来自中东(阿布达比、科威特和卡塔尔)。

欧洲国家在主权财富基金投资方面排名第一,2011年,交易量占交易总额的40%以上。美国对这样的投资的反对声一直很强,占不到10%。

这些国家的担忧并不是完全没有根据的。主权财富基金给全球经济和金融市场带来风险,其中一些已经实质化。

例如,2008年,美国次级抵押贷款泡沫破灭,欧盟主权债务危机爆发一年后,一些主权财富基金面临暂时但重要的损失,这主要是由于对这些经济体的房地产、金融和主权债务市场的高暴露。那些没有遭受打击的基金因东道国反对战略部门计划得到保护。同时,主权财富基金意识到了他们的投资敏感性,害怕潜在的报复,通常持有少数股权(1% - 2%)。

也有些例外模式。中国投资公司去年最大的投资是在法国能源巨头苏伊士集团石油和天然气勘探与生产部门30%(32亿美元)的股份。中投公司选择在一个部门持有较多的股份,而不是在整个集团持有一小部分,因为这样做不仅提供了一个战略优势(获得能源资源),且使货币受益(投资于以美元计价的资产)。

不过,总体而言,不透明是多数主权财富基金最典型的特征,这加剧了他们带来的风险。虽然一些主权财富基金,像挪威政府养老基金——是透明的,大多数主权财富基金的规模、资产组合、投资策略、表现和管理模式等相关信息几乎没有。

提高透明度是《圣地亚哥原则》——24条主权财富基金最佳实践自愿性原则的主要目的之一。自2008年以来,25个国家签署了这一原则。不过,尽管这是迈向管理主权财富基金法律框架、制度和治理结构、以及投资和风险管理政策重要的第一步,它们的应用并不一致且不足。

鉴于主权财富基金及其投资的地理分布,真正的全球监管是极不可能的。但是,没有更密切的监控,主权财富基金将不可避免地面临东道国的政治限制,所以加强自制是符合他们的利益的。

增加主权财富基金操作透明度的需求不应错失潜在的好处。作为长期投资者,主权财富基金可以通过金融中介减少市场波动,为项目融资,获得积极而长远的回报。

此外,相较于其他类型的机构投资者,主权财富基金拥有比较优势。不像保险公司和养老基金,他们没有长期债务或未来付款义务。作为公众投资者,他们对基于公共政策的投资可能有更好的理解。鉴于这些优点,主权财富基金在基础设施融资方面发挥着很大且不断增加的作用。

新金融法规——银行《巴塞尔协议3》和保险公司《偿付能力2》——正在加强这些优势。虽然法规可能减少金融危机的可能性和影响,他们也将使长期贷款更加昂贵,非流动性资产的投资风险增加。

因此,银行和保险公司可能会脱离基础设施融资,为主权财富基金创造更多的机会。考虑到基础设施对可持续发展至关重要,这可能最终导致主权财富基金成为这个领域的重要成员。

为了达到这个目标,主权财富基金必须改变他们的投资模式。2011年,主权财富基金在金融服务领域投资了352亿美元,房地产领域134亿美元,化石燃料资源(主要是石油和天然气)领域132亿美元,基础设施和公用事业领域65亿美元,飞机、汽车、船舶、火车制造商34亿美元。鉴于主权财富基金的主要目标是将财富转移给后代,他们在化石燃料市场的高暴露于是不可持续的。

事实上,根据限制全球气温上升在2°C以内的要求,直到2050年,剩下的碳排放“预算”是已探明化石燃料储备的五分之一。这意味着,这些储备只有20%可以燃烧。

中东和亚洲的一些主权财富基金似乎理解了高碳投资组合的制约,准备创建一个平台为金融资源节约型、低碳、环保的基础设施项目融资。事实上,这个想法在1月份举行的世界未来能源峰会和国际可再生能源会议上进行了讨论。

这个想法应该获得明确的支持,作为主权财富基金更加关注绿色投资的一个跳板。有了正确的方法,主权财富基金可以为所有人提供重大的长期收益。

Green Sovereign Wealth

2013-05-15 15:31

At the end of 2011, sovereign-wealth funds’ assets under management amounted to $3 trillion, following 237 direct investments worth $81 billion that year. Some experts even estimate SWFs’ assets to be worth $6 trillion. This means that SWFs, the avatars of state capitalism, are now twice as rich as the world’s hedge funds, the totems of liberal capitalism’s excesses.

The growing might of SWFs is causing concern – and, in some cases, inciting virulent criticism – particularly in host OECD countries, where many fear the redistribution of financial, economic, and political power to emerging countries that have very different political regimes from their own. In fact, of the seven SWFs that control more than two-thirds of all SWFs’ assets, three are from Asia (one from China and two from Singapore) and three are from the Middle East (Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, and Qatar).

European countries rank first among hosts for SWF investments, accounting for more than 40% of the total value of deals in 2011. The United States, where opposition to such investments has been stronger, accounts for less than 10%.

These countries’ concerns are not entirely unfounded. SWFs pose concrete risks, some of which have already materialized, to the global economy and to financial markets both at home and in host countries.

For example, some SWFs faced temporary, but significant, losses after America’s subprime mortgage bubble burst in 2008, and after the European Union’s sovereign-debt crisis erupted a year later, owing to a high level of exposure to these economies’ property, financial, and sovereign-debt markets. Those that have not been hit have been protected by host-country opposition to projects in strategic sectors, and by the fact that SWFs, aware of the sensitivity of their investments, and afraid of potential retaliation, have mostly taken small stakes (1-2%) in their targets.

There are some exceptions to this pattern. The Chinese Investment Corporation’s biggest investment last year was a 30% ($3.2 billion) stake in the gas and oil exploration and production sector of the French energy giant GDF Suez. CIC chose to take a significant share in one branch, rather than a small share in the whole group, because doing so offered both a strategic advantage (access to energy resources) and a monetary benefit (investment in dollar-denominated assets).

In general, however, opacity is a defining feature of most SWFs, exacerbating the risks that they pose. While some SWFs, like Norway’s Government Pension Fund – Global, are transparent, little information is available on most SWFs’ size, portfolio holdings, investment strategy, performance, or mode of governance.

Enhancing transparency is one of the main aims of the Santiago Principles – a set of 24 voluntary guidelines that stipulate best practices for SWFs. Twenty-five countries have signed on to the Principles since 2008. But, while they are an important first step toward managing SWFs’ legal framework, institutional and governance structure, and investment and risk-management policies, they are unevenly applied, and are widely considered inadequate.

Given the geographical distribution of SWFs and their investments, truly global regulation is highly unlikely. But, without closer monitoring, SWFs will inevitably face politically motivated restrictions by some host countries, so it is in their interest to intensify their efforts at self-regulation.

The need to increase the transparency of SWF operations should not be allowed to eclipse their potential benefits. As long-term investors, SWFs can help to reduce market volatility through financial intermediation, as well as contribute to financing projects with positive but long-term rates of return.

Furthermore, SWFs have comparative advantages over other kinds of institutional investors. Unlike insurance companies and pension funds, they have no long-term debt or future payment obligations. And, as public investors, they are likely to have a better understanding of investment projects that depend on public policy. Given these advantages, SWFs play a large – and growing – role in infrastructure finance.

New financial regulations – Basel 3 for banks and Solvency 2 for insurers – are reinforcing these advantages. While the regulations are likely to reduce the likelihood and impact of financial crises, they will also make long-term loans more expensive and investments in illiquid assets riskier.

As a result, banks and insurers might disengage from infrastructure finance, creating more opportunity at lower cost for SWFs. Given that infrastructure is crucial to sustainable development, this could eventually lead SWFs to become key players in this area.

To achieve this, SWFs must alter their investment pattern. In 2011, SWFs invested $35.2 billion in financial services, $13.4 billion in property, $13.2 billion in fossil-fuel resources (mainly oil and gas), $6.5 billion in infrastructure and utilities, and $3.4 billion in aircraft, car, ship, and train manufacturers. Given that SWFs’ primary objective is to transfer wealth to future generations, their high level of exposure to fossil-fuel markets is unsustainable.

Indeed, the remaining carbon-emissions “budget” until 2050, adherence to which is required to limit the global temperature increase to 2°C, is five times smaller than the carbon equivalent of proven fossil-fuel reserves. This means that only 20% of these reserves, based on which SWF assets are valued, can be burned unabated.

Some SWFs in the Middle East and Asia seem to understand the risks associated with carbon-heavy investment portfolios, and are ready to work together to create a platform to finance resource-efficient, low-carbon, environmentally friendly infrastructure projects. Indeed, the idea was discussed in January at the World Future Energy Summit and the International Renewable Energy Conference in Abu Dhabi.

This initiative should be supported unequivocally, serving as a springboard for a stronger focus on green investment among SWFs. With the right approach, SWFs can offer significant long-term benefits to all.

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