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Rocky ride ahead for Norway's $1.2 trillion wealth fund

Economy May 03, 2022 08:06AM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. Nicolai Tangen, appointed as the new CEO of the Norges Bank Investment Management attends a news conference, in Oslo, Norway May 28, 2020. NTB Scanpix/Hakon Mosvold Larsen via REUTERS/Files 2/2

By Gwladys Fouche

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway's $1.2 trillion sovereign wealth fund is prepared for a rocky ride as it confronts the biggest geopolitical changes in three decades, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

"We probably face the greatest changes for 30 years," Nicolai Tangen told a Norwegian parliamentary hearing, adding the world's largest sovereign wealth fund expects "growing frictions between superpowers and a reversal of globalisation".

Tangen said that the Norwegian fund, which invests all of its assets in foreign stocks, bonds, property and renewable energy projects, has "nowhere to hide" and must manage the risk that comes with exposure to global markets.

"We have a rocky ride ahead," he said, adding that inflation, already on the rise before the Ukraine conflict, has continued to increase, while interest rates are still very low and share prices remain high.

Of all the risk factors, stagflation was "the worst", Tangen said, adding it could potentially lead to a 40% fall in the fund and that it was a more likely scenario than six months ago.

"We have a combination of high price rises and lower-than-before economic growth, inflation is going up and growth is on its way down," Tangen later told Reuters.

"It looks like we are potentially nearer a scenario of (stagflation) than we were earlier."

Founded in 1996, the fund invests revenue from Norway's oil and gas sector and holds stakes in 9,300 companies globally, owning 1.3% of all listed stocks.

Assets now correspond to $230,000 for every Norwegian, and the purpose of the fund is to share the proceeds of the country's oil and gas revenues with future generations.

RUSSIA AND RENEWABLES

Norway ordered the fund to first freeze and then divest its Russian assets, worth some 27 billion crowns ($2.85 billion) and equivalent to 0.2% of its total value at the end of 2021, after Moscow began its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

However, the fund has not yet begun selling, Tangen said, adding that he did not know when this would be possible as the Moscow market was not functioning well with traded volumes not large enough for its needs.

It could not be sure who counterparties were, making it hard to avoid selling to individuals under international sanctions.

Elsewhere, the fund took its first ever direct stake in a renewable energy project, a Dutch wind farm, in April last year, but has not done so since.

Tangen said even though the fund has a mandate from parliament to invest up to 2% of its total value in renewables, it would take some time as competition was fierce and "good prospects (are) hard to find".

($1 = 9.4587 Norwegian crowns)

Rocky ride ahead for Norway's $1.2 trillion wealth fund
 

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