Australia’s SWF lags in returns

October 19, 2009

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.

The Future Fund is a rare SWF which reports results quarterly, like a public-listed firm. The underperformance might outrage the public though — so is this worth it?

Recall remarks last month by David Murray, the fund’s chairman of the board of guardians , which highlighted some downsides in reporting quarter after quarter.

“We are happy to report but it does create some significant difficulties. If forces the community to take very short term views in returns in the fund and causes management of the fund to be concerned about media and community responses,” he said at a SWF meeting in Azerbaijan earlier this month.

Jin Liqun, chairman of the board of supervisors at China Investment Corp, was more direct.

 “SWFs are not publicly traded companies. We do not have obligations to publish quarterly information to the public. Indeed, this kind of quarterly disclose has done more harm than good. It has encouraged managers to do reckless things,” Jin told Reuters in Baku.

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