Global Investing

from MacroScope:

Chile, Singapore among most transparent SWFs

Chile, UAE, Singapore, Azerbaijan, Ireland and Norway claim top rankings on the latest transparency index, published by SWF Institute. At the bottom of the ranking is Venezuela, Oman, Nigeria, Mauritania, Kiribati, Iran, Brunei and Algeria.

The Linaburg-Maduell index is calculated with 10 principles -- such as whether the fund provides up-to-date, independently audited annual reports, or whether it provides clear strategies and objectives. It also gives points on whether the fund gives ownership percentage of company hodlings, total market value, returns and management compensation.

Enhancing transparency is a key task for sovereign wealth funds, whose often opaque operations have come under heavy criticism by some Western politicians who suspect them of investing with political, rather than commercial, motives.

In fact in the recent meeting of the world's leading sovereign wealth funds, only Norway, Chile, New Zealand agreed in advance to speak to Reuters on the sidelines; when contacted on the ground China also spoke. Others either declined to comment at all or did not return email.

(Source: SWF Institute; www.swfinstitute.org)

from MacroScope:

Australia’s SWF lags in returns

Australia's Future Fund reveals that the fund's mixed asset portfolio (excluding Telstra holding) returned 5.6 percent in the third quarter.

The fund has just over 10 percent in Australian equities, 22.8 percent in global equities. Safer instruments dominate, with debt holdings at 24 percent and cash at 31 percent.

The mixed-asset fund significantly underperforms an equity-only portfolio. For example, the MSCI world equity index has risen more than 17 percent in the Q3 alone.

from MacroScope:

Transparency: a double edged sword for SWFs

Sovereign wealth funds, facing criticism from Western regulators and politicians for their opaqueness, are keen to open up their books.

While Norway is a leader in the SWF league of transparency, other countries like China have started publishing annual reports.

But is transparency all good for SWFs?

Gary Smith, head of  central banks, supranational institutions and sovereign wealth funds at BNP Paribas Investment Partners, says the pressure to open up has raised unseen consequences of having to face domestic pressures.

from Funds Hub:

Western investors fear Dubai’s Wild East reputation

By Jason Benham

Glitzy Dubai's property market is in trouble, there's no doubt about that. Just take a look at the hundreds of motionless cranes, unfinished projects and the expats who are leaving in droves as they lose their jobs.

Dubai's future cloudedAnd prices and rents which soared during a six-year boom have crashed since late last year. According to one resident who recently moved in the City, it now costs 150,000 dirhams to rent a three-bedroom flat on the Palm, a man-made island off the coast of the emirate, around the same it would have cost to rent a one-bedroom appartment there a year ago.

It's not just the global downturn thats the concern for Dubai's once-booming property market, but also the lack of transparency and need for greater regulation. And that's what's going to keep the western investor from splashing the cash.

from Global News Journal:

Giving in to Ali Baba

I once paid a cop 30 ringgit (about $10 then) for making an apparently illegal left-hand turn in Kuala Lumpur. Scores of drivers in front of me were also handing over their "instant fines", discreetly enclosed within the policeman's ticketing folder. It was days ahead of a major holiday and the cops were collecting their holiday bonus from the public.

Malaysia opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim holds a disc he says contains evidence of judge-fixing in Malaysia 

I felt bad about this, of course. What I was doing was illegal, immoral and perpetuating an insidious culture that goes by many names in the East -- "baksheesh" in India, "Ali Baba" (and his 40 thieves) in Malaysia, "swap" in Indonesia (means "to feed").  But the policeman pointed out I would have to take off the good part of a day to go to court and pay 10 times as much to the judge. So I rationalised: "When in Rome..."