It is a rare event when the world gets a peek into the stock portfolio of a $300 billion Chinese sovereign-wealth fund. Thanks to a regulatory filing that China Investment Corp. made with U.S. securities regulators, investors are now able to do just that.
They can see, for instance, that CIC holds shares of American International Group Inc., Apple Inc. and Citigroup Inc., as well as the same sorts of index funds many small investors buy to get broad exposure to different markets.
What insights can investors glean about the fund’s strategy and how the people who run it view the markets? Here are some answers to these and other questions raised by CIC’s disclosure.
Is China building strategic stakes in major U.S. companies like Apple and Coca-Cola Co. through its sovereign-wealth fund?
Unlikely. CIC held just 30,000 shares of Apple at the end of 2009, representing an insignificant amount of the 907 million shares outstanding. The same calculation works for the other U.S. blue-chip holdings: each is a tiny number, mostly less than 1%. The exceptions are its negotiated investments in companies such as Morgan Stanley and BlackRock Inc. In both those cases, the company’s management sought out and welcomed CIC’s investment.
Chinese companies attempting to buy major stakes in U.S. firms have at times met with political resistance and rejection, and CIC’s management is aware of the sensitivities that would be raised by its own presence as a major shareholder in certain companies. In fact, CIC management has said so in the past.
How much of CIC and China’s overall portfolio does this represent?
A relatively small portion. The $9.6 billion invested in U.S.-listed equities is less than 10% of CIC’s $110 billion allocated for international investments. It is an even smaller fraction of the Chinese government’s overall portfolio if you consider the $2.27 trillion in reserves held by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange at the end of September. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is concerned with U.S. public-market investors, so stakes in unlisted holdings by CIC aren’t included. Many of the holdings disclosed in the filing are shares in foreign companies with American depositary receipts or exchange-traded funds whose underlying assets are outside the U.S.
Does that mean that China is bearish on the U.S. market?
Hard to say. It is likely that CIC has much more invested in the U.S. and elsewhere on its behalf by outside managers. Some estimate CIC has put more than $25 billion into markets through outside managers. CIC hasn’t released any indication of the size of those allocations in 2009, which will probably only be disclosed in its annual report later this year. It has also placed billions of dollars into fixed-income products, hedge funds and private-equity funds. None of those are covered by its 13F filing with the SEC.
Senior CIC officials, including Chairman Lou Jiwei, have said in the past that they believe there are better investment opportunities in emerging markets, including China. Many foreign investors take a similar view, and U.S. investors pumped a record amount of money into overseas mutual funds last year. However, CIC retains large stakes in U.S. financial firms including Morgan Stanley and Blackstone Group, despite the decline in the value of those investments.
What does the filing tell us about CIC’s strategy?
It appears CIC is giving its in-house portfolio managers a chance to construct investing strategies with a tiny proportion of CIC’s own money to deploy into relatively blue-chip companies that they believe either have strong growth prospects or are undervalued. Names on the list such as insurer AIG and Citigroup were hit hard in the financial crisis and would benefit from a rebound in the U.S. economy. Interestingly, CIC held a $5 million stake in Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., a company that at the end of 2009 was in the middle of a takeover offer from Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. The strategy of holding stakes in companies in the middle of takeovers is called ‘merger arbitrage.’ It is a common hedge-fund strategy and depends on the ability of a fund to read the likelihood of a deal being completed better than the market.
Is China’s sovereign-wealth fund becoming more transparent by making such a disclosure?
The SEC requires any institutional investors holding more than $100 million in U.S.-listed securities to submit the same sort of 13F filing that CIC made. So it is fair to say that CIC wasn’t doing this because of a desire for transparency, even if transparency is the end result.
In fact, CIC’s president, Gao Xiqing, has said he doesn’t believe it is smart for CIC to reveal its holdings and positions because it allows the market to move against them. This is a similar view that many hedge funds take, and they also have to file Form 13Fs to the SEC, which are usually disclosed. A few managers, such as Mr. Buffett, sometimes receive exemptions because they are pursuing trading strategies that take place over extended periods of time, which they argue could be adversely impacted by other market participants knowing certain holdings. But that is ultimately the SEC’s call, not the manager’s.
世界得以一窥中国3000亿美元主权财富基金的股权投资组合，是一件难得的事。由于中国投资有限责任公司(China Investment Corp.，简称中投公司)向美国证券监管机构提交了监管备案文件，投资者现在得以一窥其股权投资组合的究竟。
例如他们可以看见，中投在美国国际集团(American International Group Inc.)、苹果公司(Apple Inc.)和花旗集团(Citigroup Inc.)持有股份，并持有很多小投资者买来进行分散投资的指数型基金。
可能性不大。截至2009年年底，中投才持有30,000股苹果公司股票，在苹果9.07亿流通股中显得微不足道。中投持有的其他美国蓝筹股同样是这种情况：每一种都是微量持有，多数不到1%。例外的只有它在摩根士丹利(Morgan Stanley)和贝莱德(BlackRock Inc.)等公司的协议投资。对这两家公司的投资，都是公司管理层通过努力找到了中投，并主动引进了中投的投资。
这只是一个较小的部分。中投公司配置了1,100亿美元用于海外投资，投资于美国上市企业股票的96亿美元只占其中不到10%。如果你考虑到截至去年9月底中国国家外汇管理局(State Administration of Foreign Exchange)持有的2.27万亿美元外汇储备，那么中投公司所持美股在中国政府的整个投资组合中就显得更加微不足道了。美国证券交易委员会(U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission)关注的是美国公开市场的投资者，所以中投公司所持未上市公司股份并没有包含在其中。备案文件披露的所持股份中，很多都是拥有美国存托凭证的外国公司，或基础资产位于美国国外的交易所交易基金。
看起来，中投公司正在给内部投资组合经理们一个机会来构建投资战略，把中投公司自有资金中的一小部分投入他们认为拥有强劲增长前景或估值过低的相对来说的蓝筹股公司。保险公司AIG和花旗集团等中投投资名单上的公司在金融危机中遭受了严重打击，它们也将从美国经济的复苏中获益。值得注意的是，中投公司在Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp.持有500万美元股权；而该公司在2009年底时正处于被巴菲特(Warren Buffett)名下的伯克希尔哈撒韦公司(Berkshire Hathaway Inc.)提议收购的过程中。这种持有收购过程中的公司股权的战略被称为“合并套戥”。这是一种常见的对冲基金战略，取决于一只基金对进行中的交易结果好于市场水平可能性的判断能力。