Comparing aspects of transnational sovereign wealth fund investment behaviour in advanced and developing economies

Gouws, Johannes Mattheus (2010-12)

Thesis (MBA)--University of Stellenbosch, 2010.


Although Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) are not a new phenomenon, they have gained international prominence since 2005 due to their rapid and much publicised growth, as well as government ownership. The objective of this study is to investigate SWFs from the perspective of developing countries and to compare the developing country experience of SWF investment with that of the developed economies of the West. The question that this research report aims to address is whether SWF investment behaviour is more aggressive in developing economies than in advanced economies by being more likely to invest in sensitive sectors of, and to take significant stakes in companies within these sectors in, developing economies? Before this analysis is made, a comprehensive literature study is done consisting of two parts. The first provides an overview of the reasons behind the rise of SWFs and the West‘s discomfort with the phenomenon, focussing on the emergence of state capitalism as a competing socio-political model to free-market democracy. The second part of the literature review gives a broad overview of what constitutes a SWF, its main characteristics and what concerns about SWFs have transpired to date. The researcher uses a narrow definition to differentiate SWFs from other sovereign investor classes, and defines a SWF as a fund: i) owned directly by a sovereign government; ii) managed independently of other state financial institutions; iii) that does not have predominant explicit pension obligations; iv) that invests in a diverse set of financial asset classes in pursuit of commercial returns; and, v) that has made a significant proportion of its publicly-reported investments internationally. The concerns raised in the literature about SWFs as well as the response from the international community and individual recipient countries to these concerns are discussed. In particular, the researcher focuses on the fears expressed by recipient countries that SWFs may invest for non-commercial reasons. To answer the questions raised about SWFs, the researcher assesses the behaviours displayed by these funds by means of an analysis of the transnational transaction data contained in the SWF Institute‘s SWF Transaction Database for the period 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2009. The research results show that SWFs do not appear to target sensitive industries in developing economies more than they would in advanced economies, but it appears that they are willing to gain greater influence and control of the running of the organisations in which they invest if those organisations are based in the developing world.

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