Norwegian oil fund's stock dips

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17:33 CEST+02:00
Sticking to a financial plan can be challenging, even if you are the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund.

So it seems, sometimes, for Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global and the handful of active traders at Norges Bank Investment Management — under fire for the loss of over 270 billion kroner (€35.91 billion) in equity value since June.

Braced now for “a worst ever year”, Norway’s Oil Fund (as Norwegians call it) is on course to lose nearly 10 percent of its June 2011 value, as a summer of volatility in worldwide stock indices hasn’t eased with autumn’s approach.  

Managers of the 3 trillion kroner fund had hoped to invest five percent, or 150 billion kroner, in real estate as soon as practicable. Competition from other funds, a dearth of real estate expertise and rules banning sovereign fund investment in places like the US meant much of the fund's value still rides the stock market.

Investor Riulf Rustad, who once managed 120 billion kroner, told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that he believes the 1.8 trillion kroner the Oil Fund has in worldwide stocks is akin to “playing at a casino”. He took aim at Norway’s Storting, or parliament, which long ago voted that 60 percent of the fund would hold stocks.

Rustad said more bonds ought to be in the mix: “The question is: is it more important to keep the money or to gamble on getting more money?”

Other fund economists and managers have warned this could be “one of those years” long warned about, where the fund’s share holdings could be cut in half.

Despite partnering in the past year with England’s Crown Estate to put 5.75 billion kroner into three of London’s priciest pedestrian malls and spending 5.5 billion kroner on Eiffel Tower estate, the rush to property and fixed income has been a crawl.   

Just as August 2008 marked the 3 trillion kroner fund’s worst year — a yearlong, 50 billion kroner plunge — so too has Summer 2011 gouged away value (although 53 billion kroner from state interests in oilfields will top the fund up again). Optimistically called a pension fund by Oslo, the sovereign fund is still battling increasingly bold Canadian pension funds and Arabian wealth keen on buying English ports and property.

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Kept away from bargain US real estate by Washington’s rules on foreign ownership, the oil fund has just 0.1 percent of its value safely in real estate. Bonds and other fixed income account for 39 percent. Intended for “future generations”, the fund earned just 0.3 percent (4 billion kroner) between April and June 2011.

Making matters harder for the fund’s managers, a much-touted moral oversight board publicly frowns on hard-times havens like shares in Big Tobacco.

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