CryptocurrencyInvestingBanksReal Estate

The world’s largest wealth fund has lost $21 billion so far this year

August 18, 2020, 8:46 AM UTC

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s biggest, lost $21 billion in the first half of the year as a rebound in stock markets wasn’t enough to erase its record decline earlier this year.

The Oslo-based fund fell 3.4%, or 188 billion kroner ($21 billion), over the period, it said on Tuesday. More details were due to be presented at a press conference set to start at 10 a.m. local time.

“Even though markets recovered well in the second quarter, we are still witnessing considerable uncertainty,” the fund’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer Trond Grande said in a statement.

Grande will be standing in for Yngve Slyngstad for Tuesday’s presentation, as the outgoing CEO skips what would have been his final set of results after 12 years at the helm of the giant sovereign investor.

CEO Drama

It’s been a tumultuous period for the $1.2 trillion fund. In addition to the market chaos that’s played havoc with returns this year, the investor has been dragged into a political debacle over the appointment of its new CEO, hedge-fund manager Nicolai Tangen.

Tangen is set to replace Slyngstad on Sept. 1, though it’s not yet clear whether the government might be asked by parliament to get involved and possibly postpone, or even halt, the transition. The central bank, which houses the fund, has met fierce criticism for its handling of Tangen’s recruitment, specifically for failing to eliminate potential conflicts of interest relating to his personal wealth.

Whoever runs the fund, which was set up in the 1990s to invest Norway’s oil income into foreign securities, will likely have to embark on historic asset sales this year to cover the government’s need for stimulus cash. Withdrawals reached a record 167 billion kroner, or $19 billion in the first half, the fund said on Tuesday.

Investment Returns

Stocks were the fund’s worst investment in the first half, losing almost 7% overall. Unlisted real estate also fell while fixed-income holdings rose. The investor held almost 70% in equities, just under 3% in real estate, with the rest going into fixed income.

For the second quarter alone, though, the fund saw an 18% rebound in its stock portfolio, leading to an overall return of 13.1%. That’s close to the record 13.5% it reported for the third quarter of 2009, when equities bounced back from the financial crisis.

The fund’s biggest holdings were in Microsoft Corp., Apple Inc., and Alphabet Inc., with its technology portfolio returning 14.2% overall in the first half. Financial holdings fell 20.8%. Oil and gas stocks, which the fund has tried to scale back, slumped 33.1%.