Elephantine sovereign wealth funds trying to fly “below the radar”

Jan 31st, 2011 | Filed under: Private Equity, Today's Post | By:
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It seems that sovereign wealth funds are the latest “scary” thing in the media – perhaps scarier than high-frequency traders, Irish banks, Greek tax collectors or U.S. subprime borrowers. But there’s a difference: where the latter may blow up an economy, SWFs merely threaten to take it over, or at least its commanding heights (whatever those are these days).

Sovereign wealth funds are not a terribly new idea of course: Kuwait’s sovereign wealth fund dates back to 1953, Norway’s to 1967. But, with assets of around $3 trillion today, they could shortly expand to $9 trillion or more – almost the size of the U.S. national debt. Sobering numbers to be sure. A recent McKinsey study, which we reported on in September, identifies SWFs as one of five regions in the asset management universe that are likely to grow significantly in coming years (along with ETFs, alternative investments, international investments and retirement assets).

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