Wealth Fund That Quadrupled Profit Now Pivots With Bet on Europe
One of Africa’s largest sovereign wealth funds rode the wave of U.S. technology stocks to a banner 2020. Now, it’s betting Europe will play catch-up.
The Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, fresh off a 51% surge in assets that took the fund above $2 billion, is boosting its exposure to European stocks and will add some Japanese equities, Chief Executive Officer Uche Orji said in an interview. The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. alumnus sees opportunity as Europe begins to open up from Covid lockdowns.
“Last year, Europe underperformed America big time” as investors moved funds to technology companies profiting from the shift to online services at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Orji said. As the global economy reopens, countries with broader industrial bases and services such as Europe “will become more interesting,” he said.
The Euro Stoxx 50 equity benchmark has climbed almost 11% this year, buoyed by expectations of a rapid recovery as vaccinations against the coronavirus progress while fiscal and monetary policies across the region remain loose. It’s outperformed both the S&P 500 Index and MSCI All Countries World Index, which have risen 9.6% and 7.5% respectively in the year-to-date.
The NSIA has $2.1 billion of assets under management. About a third of that amount is held by its Future Generations Fund, which buys equities in developed and emerging markets. The authority had 25% of the FGF invested in stocks last year, with the “bulk” in the U.S., while European stocks accounted for less than 4%, Orji said.
“We are just going to add more capital to expand our footprints in Europe and Japan, but Europe in particular is an area where we have not had a big presence,” he said.
Orji, 51, has more than two decades of experience in international banking, with an MBA from Harvard Business School. Prior to his appointment as CEO of the NSIA in 2012, he’s had stints at Goldman Sachs Asset Management LP, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and UBS Securities.
The NSIA reported a four-fold increase in profit last year to 160 billion naira ($390 million). Returns this year will likely trail 2020 as a rally in global equities eases up and as it invests in infrastructure projects that can take longer to generate income, Orji said.
The authority plans to establish a $200 million fund that builds health-care facilities to treat diseases including cancer and orthopedics. Africa’s most populous country has for decades lacked adequate investment in health care, prompting citizens including President Muhammadu Buhari to seek treatment abroad.
The NSIA plans to finance the health-care projects with co-investors, Orji said, without providing more details.
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