Middle East sovereign funds sell assets as low oil bites -study

DUBAI, June 13 (Reuters) - Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds liquidated or cancelled investments worth about 7 percent of their total assets last year, according to a study released on Monday by asset manager Invesco, in a sign of pressure from low oil prices.

State budgets in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and other oil exporters have fallen into deficit because of shrunken oil revenues, forcing governments to eat into their savings.

“Outflows from Middle East funds are not surprising, given the volatility we have seen in the oil markets. However, sovereign investor confidence remains high despite the challenging funding environment and difficult market conditions,” said Alex Millar, head of institutional sales for the Middle East and Africa at Invesco.

The company did not provide a figure for the size of Middle East sovereign funds’ assets, but this month the International Monetary Fund quoted data from the SWF Institute, which tracks the industry, as showing GCC governments had about $2.5 trillion of savings in their funds.

The Invesco study, which covered 77 sovereign investors and reserve managers around the world representing $8.96 trillion of assets, showed that new funding accounted for 3 percent of Middle East funds’ assets under management in 2015.

By comparison, new funding provided 7 percent of sovereign investors’ assets globally last year. During that year, funds globally liquidated or cancelled investments worth about 3 percent of their total assets.

The study showed the United States pulled further ahead as the preferred global destination for Middle East sovereign capital last year. It rated 8.3 points out of 10 in attractiveness, compared to 7.1 for Britain.

Middle East sovereign investors reported they were bullish on opportunities in U.S. infrastructure projects in particular.

The funds also put more emphasis on emerging markets last year. Middle East asset allocations to emerging Asia rose to 2.3 percent in 2015 from 1.5 percent in 2014; allocations at Africa swelled to 2.6 percent from 1.0 percent.

Middle Eastern sovereign funds sank more money into real estate, with their allocations rising to 9.8 percent last year from 5.9 percent two years ago.

But after allocations to infrastructure and private equity were boosted over the last two years, fewer funds expect to raise allocations to those asset classes now, the study found. (Editing by Kevin Liffey)