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Regional move to transparency still a mixed bag

Trend has been turning towards greater disclosure

Gulf News

Dubai : Ownership and transparency issues have been raised about the sovereign wealth fund investments for many years. Alternatively hailed as the saviours of last resort and reviled as opportunistic investors, sovereign funds have faced accusations of secrecy, political agenda and opacity.

However, the trend in the past two years has been turning towards greater disclosure, with several regional funds publishing detailed data.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, for example, publishes an annual report, but does not disclose total assets under management. Mubadala Development Company published clear and detailed 2010 half-year results.

The International Petroleum Investment Company in Abu Dhabi also has shied away from disclosing details of holdings, but reports have appeared about the value of its assets. Even the Kuwait Investment Authority's asset allocation has had news coverage, despite it being illegal for any KIA current or former employee to disclose data or information about its invested assets.

"SWFs are becoming increasingly diverse. However, the common feature of the funds is their liability profile, or rather their lack thereof: ostensibly, they have no liabilities beyond their government owner," Monitor analyst Victoria Barbary wrote in a report.

Of the 15 Middle East and North Africa region funds, only two — Mubadala and Bahrain's Mumtalakat — publicly report their financials, presenting full accounts.

The funds from the CIS region including Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, have adopted a different strategy. Rather than publishing a corporate annual report, they publish the accurate value of their assets on a month-by-month basis on their website.