By Robin Wigglesworth and Andrew England in Abu Dhabi, and Simeon Kerr in Dubai 2010-03-18

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the world’s biggest but most secretive state-controlled investment funds, made a small but significant step towards better disclosure by publishing its first annual review this week.

The report was light on details, and revealed little that was not already known by outside observers. However, Adia’s report represents progress towards some transparency by the fund, and will be pored over by bankers hoping to manage some of its estimated $400bn-$450bn (€290bn- €328bn, £260bn-£294bn) of assets.

Adia has never disclosed its overall size or issued reports, and until May 2008 its website was rudimentary, listing only its name, address and switchboard number. Senior management have granted only four proper interviews since it was set up in 1976 and, apart from employees, the only people usually allowed in its headquarters are senior global bankers and money managers seeking its business.

The opacity of sovereign wealth funds has been a key focus of western critics, who fear politically driven investment decisions by largely autocratic states. The debate heated up when soaring asset prices swelled the coffers of many funds, turning them into big participants in global markets.

This led the International Monetary Fund to develop “best practices” for SWFs to improve their transparency and governance. The guidelines were adopted by leading funds in September 2008 – at a time when several had pumped billions into western banks – but the effect is starting to be seen now. The IMF guidelines, known as the Santiago Principles, are voluntary but many funds are tentatively responding to calls for more openness – as evidenced by Adia’s report.

“We still know very little about the funds, but having tracked them for a while now, the improvement in disclosure is marked progress,” said Rachel Ziemba, an economist at Roubini Global Economics.

“All the funds are now looking at what kind of information they can give without jeopardising their strategies.”

The Santiago guidelines consist of two dozen “generally accepted principles and practices” that list objectives of public disclosure, investment motives, corporate governance and risk management. The principles were ratified by a newly formed International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds in Kuwait in April.

Adia’s annual review followed similar action by the Government Investment Corporation and Temasek, Singapore’s two sovereign wealth funds. They produce yearly reports intended to dispel suggestions that their investment activities are conducted with excessive secrecy. GIC, which published its first report in 2008 after 27 years of investing the island state’s foreign reserves, said it was doing so in the light of “increasing concerns” in the US and Europe.

Tony Tan, deputy chairman, said in the report it was intended to “assure the investment community and the countries in which we invest that our activities have only one purpose – financial return.”

Qatar Holding, the direct investment arm of the Qatar Investment Authority, has also been considering publishing a similar report to Adia’s. “It’s a work in progress,” said one insider, suggesting that it might reveal more details than the Adia report.

Although disclosure is improving, few expect many SWFs will become as transparent as Norway’s Government Pension Fund, Global, which lists its size, performance and investments. Few publicly reveal the most frequently requested piece of information – their total assets under management.

“In some countries there are concerns about publishing detailed information and numbers, given that there is sometimes a fine line between national and ruling family wealth,” Ms Ziemba pointed out.

For example, in Kuwait it is illegal to disclose the Kuwait Investment Authority’s total size and returns.

This is in spite of the fact that it is one of the more transparent SWFs in the Middle East. It has also updated its website to comply with the Santiago Principles.

Yet in April 2008, as the debate over SWF investments was raging, Bader al-Sa’ad, the KIA’s managing director, said there should be limits placed on transparency, arguing that “complete transparency would raise more questions than answers”.

主权财富基金开始“敞开心扉”
英国《金融时报》记者 联合报道 2010-03-18

作为全球最大但也最为隐秘的国有投资基金之一,阿布扎比投资局(Adia)在改善信息披露方面迈出了不大、但非常重要的一步:本周,该基金发布了第一份年度评估报告。

报告对细节轻描淡写,而且所披露的内容也大部分早已为外部观察人士所知。然而,阿布扎比投资局的这份报告显示出该基金在提高透明度方面的进步,也会成为银行家们仔细研读的对象。据估计,该基金资产总额在4000亿至4500亿美元之间,许多银行家都希望能够管理其中部分资产。

阿布扎比投资局从未披露过自身的资产总额或是发表过报告,而且直到2008年5月,其网站都很简陋,只列有基金名称、地址和总机号码。自1976年成立以来,其高管层只接受过4次正式采访,除了员工以外,能够获准进入其总部大楼的,只有寻求业务机会的资深国际银行家和基金经理人。

主权财富基金的不透明一直是西方批评人士的关注焦点之一,他们对专制国家做出的带有政治动机的投资决定心怀忧虑。随着急剧上涨的资产价格充实了许多主权基金的钱袋、让它们成为全球市场上的大玩家,这些基金所引发的争议也开始升温。

国际货币基金组织(IMF)因此为主权财富基金制定了“最佳做法”,以改善它们的透明度与治理。主要主权基金于2008年9月采纳了这些指导意见——当时有多家基金已向西方银行注资了数十亿美元——但其效果现在才刚刚开始显现。IMF的指导意见被称为《圣地亚哥原则》(Santiago Principles),是非强制性的,但许多基金都尝试着对要求提高公开性的呼声做出回应——阿布扎比投资局的报告就是一个例证。

“我们对这些基金依然知之甚少,但我们跟踪关注它们已经有一段时间了,它们在披露程度方面的进步是显而易见的,”鲁比尼全球经济咨询公司(RGE)经济学家雷切尔•津巴(Rachel Ziemba)表示。

“这些基金现在全都在考虑,在不损害自身战略的前提下,它们能够披露哪些信息。”

《圣地亚哥原则》由20多条“得到普遍接受的原则与做法”构成,列出了信息披露、投资动机、企业治理和风险管理方面的目标。去年4月在科威特新成立的主权财富基金国际论坛(International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds)正式批准了这些原则。

阿布扎比投资局发布年度评估报告之前,新加坡的两家主权财富基金——新加坡政府投资公司(GIC)和淡马锡(Temasek)——也采取了同样的行动。它们编制的年度报告意在消除外界的一种印象,即它们的投资活动过于隐秘。GIC是在2008年首次发表年度报告的,此前该基金利用新加坡外汇储备开展投资活动已有27年。GIC表示,这么做是考虑到美国和欧洲“日益强烈的关切”。

GIC副主席陈庆炎(Tony Tan)在报告中表示,报告意在“让投资界和我们所投资的国家确信,我们的活动只有一个目的——获得投资回报。”

卡塔尔投资局(Qatar Investment Authority)旗下的直接投资机构卡塔尔控股(Qatar Holding)也一直在考虑发布一份与阿布扎比投资局类似的报告。“这项工作正在进行中,”一位内部人士表示,并指出卡塔尔投资局的报告可能会透露更多细节信息。

尽管披露程度正在改善,但没有多少人指望很多主权财富基金会变得和挪威政府全球养老基金(Government Pension Fund – Global)一样透明,后者在报告中列明了资金规模、业绩以及投资内容。很少有哪家基金会公开披露遭询问最频繁的一则信息——它们管理的资产总额。

“有些国家对发布详细信息和数字存在顾虑,因为有时候,国家财富和统治家族财富之间的界限很微妙,”津巴指出。

例如,在科威特,透露科威特投资局(Kuwait Investment Authority)的总资产和收益就是违法行为。

不过,科威特投资局仍是中东比较透明的主权财富基金之一。该基金还对网站进行了更新,以符合《圣地亚哥原则》的规定。

但在2008年4月,当围绕主权财富基金投资的争论激战正酣之际,科威特投资局的董事总经理巴达尔•阿尔•萨阿德(Bader Al-Sa’ad)却主张,应对透明度加以限制,并指出“彻底透明所带来的问题要多于答案”。

英国《金融时报》罗宾•威格尔斯沃思(Robin Wigglesworth)、安德鲁•英格兰(Andrew England)阿布扎比、西梅昂•克尔(Simeon Kerr)迪拜报道。

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