A Financial Force to Be Reckoned with? An Overview of Sovereign Wealth Funds
54 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2016
Date Written: August 2016
Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) represent a new form of investment organizational structure and have grown to over $5.7 trillion assets under management by February 2016, making them a financial force potentially worth reckoning with in international financial markets. This article starts with a brief introduction of the 35 funds that meet our definition of SWFs, then discusses their evolution from stabilization funds to SWFs and illustrates the differences and similarities between the various types of funds. The most salient and controversial feature of SWFs is that they are state-owned; we survey the existing literature on state ownership and discuss what this predicts about the efficiency and beneficence of government control of SWF assets. We discuss the documented importance of SWF funding sources (oil sales revenues versus excess reserves from export earnings) and survey the normative literature describing how SWFs should allocate funds. We then summarize the empirical literature studying how SWFs actually do allocate funds across asset classes, geographically, and across industries. We document that most SWF equity investments in publicly traded firms involve cross-border purchases of sizeable minority stakes (median around 20%) in target firms. However, the most recent data shows a “shift to domestic investment” pattern and also an industry preference change from the financial to the real estate sector. Next, we assess empirical studies examining the impact of SWF stock investments on target firm financial and operating performance, and find universal support for a positive announcement period stock price increase of 1-3%. This, however, is significantly lower than the 5% abnormal return documented for stock purchases by comparable privately owned financial investors in recent studies, indicating a “sovereign wealth fund discount.” Finally, we point out the unresolved issues and possible extensions in SWF research, and assess how the massive decline in oil export revenues by major SWF sponsor nations such as Abu Dhabi, Russia, Kuwait, and Norway is likely to impact SWF investment levels in coming years.
Keywords: Sovereign wealth funds, International financial markets, Government policy and regulation
JEL Classification: G32, G15, G38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation