FOR THE FIRST TIME, CHINA'S NEW SOVEREIGN WEALTH FUND PUBLICLY PLEDGES MORE TRANSPARENCY TO ALLAY FEARS IT WILL BE A STRATEGIC THREAT ? "60 MINUTES" SUNDAY
But Fund President Gao Xiqing Argues a Code of Conduct for Sovereign
Wealth Funds is Unnecessary
China's government-controlled $200 billion sovereign wealth fund pledges in an exclusive 60 MINUTES interview to be more transparent to allay fears it will try to use its vast investment ability to exert economic or political control. In his first interview as the fund's president, Gao Xiqing promises to make China's fund as open to scrutiny as that of Norway, considered the most transparent of the world's 40 sovereign wealth funds. Gao's interview with Lesley Stahl will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, April 6 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
"We are going to produce our annual report," says Gao, president of the China Investment Corp. "We are going to do things ... [just like other] good sovereign wealth funds, like the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund," he tells Stahl, adding it might take some time to get there. With his pledge, Gao joins the list of major sovereign wealth funds that have recently raised efforts to convince the U.S. and Europe that their foreign investments are purely financial and not strategic. Last month, Abu Dhabi and Singapore publicly addressed the concern that their sovereign wealth funds might invest for political rather than business reasons.
Sovereign wealth funds, belonging to rich oil and trade export nations, typically invest some of their nations' excess reserves in companies abroad. China is considered to have the biggest dollar reserve in the world - over $1.5 trillion and growing by $1 billion a day. It's fund ranks as the fifth largest in the world. To date, the fund's U.S. investments include $5 billion for a 9.9 percent stake in investment bank Morgan Stanley, $3 billion dollars in the private equity group Blackstone and, just recently, the fund invested over $100 million to buy shares in Visa's initial public offering. Over the winter, the fund was part of the multi-national bailout of Wall Street due to the sub-prime and credit crises. But, in his interview, Mr. Gao vowed China will not buy controlling stakes in any company or use its investment to exert influence or steal technology. Says Gao: "It is our policy not to control anything. We don't want to go in and say, �Okay, I think you should change this person...this product line.' That's not our business," Gao says. Calling himself a passive financial investor, he also pledged not to buy military companies.
Nevertheless, China's new fund and other sovereign wealth funds have generated some concern regarding the motives of their investments and lack of transparency. "The International Monetary Fund is drafting a set of best practices' guidelines Code for Sovereign Wealth Funds. Mr. Gao says such a code is unnecessary. "That law will only hurt feelings. It's not economic. It doesn't make sense. Politically, it's stupid," says Gao, noting that American hedge funds have no such codes. "If you make...someone singled out as a bad boy, then that becomes a problem emotionally."