GIC Private Limited
|Sovereign wealth fund|
|Founded||22 May 1981|
|Founder||Government of Singapore|
|Lee Hsien Loong (Chairman)
Lim Chow Kiat (CEO)
GIC Private Limited, formerly known as Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, is a sovereign wealth fund established by the Government of Singapore in 1981 to manage Singapore's foreign reserves. Its mission is to preserve and enhance the international purchasing power of the reserves, with the aim to achieve good long-term returns above global inflation over the investment time horizon of 20 years. With a network of 10 offices in key financial capitals around the world, GIC invests internationally in developed market equities, emerging market equities, nominal bonds and cash, inflation-linked bonds, private equity and real estate.
GIC is one of a few global firms with the highest corporate credit ratings by both Standard & Poor's and Moody's, of AAA and Aaa respectively. The Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute (SWFI) had estimated the fund's assets at US$359 billion.
In 1981, Goh Keng Swee, then first Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, saw the trend of Singapore's rapidly growing foreign reserves and decided to invest Singapore's reserves for the future of the nation and the welfare of its people. He was advised by a foreign merchant bank, N M Rothschild & Sons, and established the GIC.
The government then embarked on a change in investment policy by investing the bulk of its foreign reserves in longer-term, high-yielding assets rather than in liquid but low-yielding assets.
An undisclosed number of those who left the MAS in 1981 went to work for the new GIC. In the late 1990s, four of its most senior positions were held by former Monetary Authority of Singapore officers.
GIC has the ability to invest across a full spectrum of financial assets, from sovereign debt to infrastructure, and manages approximately 80 per cent of its portfolio in-house.
Traditionally, GIC has kept a low profile in its investments. During the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007–2010, however, a number of its investments attracted controversy. In 2013, according to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, the GIC was one of the most active SWF investors for the year.
In 2006, at the height of the US real estate bubble, it made a US$200 million investment in the equity of Stuyvesant Town—Peter Cooper Village, the largest apartment complex in Manhattan (as well as US$575 million in secondary loans). The management of the complex, Tishman Speyer Properties and BlackRock Realty, defaulted on their loan in 2010, effectively wiping out the investment.
In late 2007, during the first phase of the crisis, GIC invested $11 billion Swiss francs for a 7.9% stake in the Swiss bank UBS. The loans were converted into equity in 2010, with an estimated 70% loss of value, though partially offset by a 9% fixed coupon. GIC had acknowledged that the timing for the investment could have been better. It also stated that other investments made at that time have had positive returns which offset the losses on UBS. GIC's total portfolio has fully recovered to its value prior to the global financial crisis.
In 2008, GIC invested US$6.88 billion for a 9% stake in Citigroup. In 2009, it pared its stake to less than 5%, realising a $1.6 billion profit, with another $1.6 billion paper profit on its remaining holding.
On 30 July 2013, Singapore's GIC was part of a consortium to acquire Transport et Infrastructures Gaz France (TIGF) which is Total's gas transportation and storage business for an enterprise value of €2.4 billion (US$3.25 billion). The consortium includes Snam (45%) an Italian gas storage and transport operator, Singapore's GIC (35%) and EDF (20%).
As of 2017, GIC holds around 34% of its portfolio in the US; 3% in Latin America; 6% in the rest of Americas; 6% in the United Kingdom; 12% in the Eurozone; 6% in the Middle East, Africa and the rest of Europe; 19% in Asia excluding Japan; 12% in Japan and 2% in Australasia.
In 2008, GIC published for the first time a report containing information on its 20-year returns and more information on how it is managed and governed, and how it invests Singapore's foreign reserves.
GIC does not disclose the amount of funds it manages and its annual profit and loss. Revealing the exact amount would expose the full size of Singapore's financial reserves and make it easier for speculators to attack the Singapore dollar during periods of vulnerability.
Since 2011, GIC had also published the 5-year and 10-year nominal rates of return to provide a sense of the ongoing medium-term investment performance, even while GIC maintains its sights on the long term. It included two composite portfolios and volatility statistics to reflect the level of portfolio risk and to offer perspective in reading the 5-year and 10-year figures.
For the year ended 31 March 2017, its annualised 20-year real rate of return was 3.7%. In USD nominal terms, GIC achieved an annualised return of 5.1%, 4.3% and 5.7% for the 5-year, 10-year and 20-year time periods respectively.
Governance and risk management
The funds managed by GIC are owned by the Singapore Government. Its investment returns supplement the country's annual budget in areas such as education, R&D, health care and physical environment.
As a Fifth Schedule company under the Singapore Constitution, GIC is accountable in various key areas to the President of Singapore who is empowered under the constitution to obtain information to enable him to safeguard the country's reserves. The Auditor-General, who is appointed by the President of Singapore, submits an annual report to the President and Parliament on his audit of the Government and other bodies managing public funds.
GIC manages risk by investing in a well-diversified portfolio, with a balanced distribution of asset classes and their underlying business sectors and geographies. This, too, is why GIC's performance has to be measured on the basis of its overall portfolio rather than by how much it makes or loses on individual investments. Its approach to "risk management" has three distinct components: portfolio risk; process risk and people risk.
As a board member of the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds, the successor of the International Working Group of SWFs that developed the Santiago Principles in October 2008, GIC publishes how it adopts and implements the voluntary set of principles and practices.
New investment framework
GIC implemented a new investment framework in 2013 to give it more flexibility to focus on "investments that may be riskier in the short term but would generate returns in the long-term."
The new framework defines more clearly GIC's risk and return drivers, its long-term investment objectives and the responsibilities of the GIC board and management.
The new approach sees its portfolio structured under three drivers.
Firstly, a 'Reference Portfolio is 65% made up of global equities and 35% of global bonds representing global markets. It characterises the risk that the Government is prepared for GIC to take in its long-term investment strategies. Next, the Policy Portfolio is made up of six core asset classes and aims to achieve superior returns over the long horizon and is the main driver of long-term returns. Last is the Active Portfolio, which seeks to outperform the Policy Portfolio, is of skill-based strategies, adopted by GIC's management within risk limits. The skill-based strategies includes choosing investment opportunities within each asset class and investing in asset classes not contained in the simplified Policy Portfolio and cross-asset class strategies.
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