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UPDATE 1-China CIC has invested half of cash, returns "not bad"

* Ramped up investments from Q2, judging mkts stabilised

* More money into commodities, infrastructure, real estate

* Hedging vs long-term inflation, fall in major currencies (Adds details, quotes)

BEIJING, Oct 28 (Reuters) - China’s sovereign wealth fund has invested about half of its $110 billion in available funds, mainly in publicly traded assets, and has enjoyed “not bad” returns so far this year, its chief said on Wednesday.

Lou Jiwei, chairman of China Investment Corp (CIC), said CIC was seeking financial returns, not control over the companies in which it invested.

“There are lots of doubts about us in the outside world, and some say we have a national agenda. Our strategy is to seek long-term risk-adjusted returns. In short, to make money,” Lou said. “Now, there’s a chance to do that.”

CIC [CIC.UL] was set up in September 2007 with $200 billion transferred from the central bank’s foreign exchange reserves and by the end of 2008 its assets had increased to $298 billion.

CIC used a big chunk of its initial capital to buy the state’s majority stakes in a trio of big banks. It now had $110 billion in freely investable funds, Lou said.

“We’ve now invested almost half, and for now the return is not bad,” he told the Tsinghua Management Global Forum. “But I daren’t say that it will still be good at the end of the year.”

CIC held most of its funds in cash last year as global markets slumped, but Lou said the fund concluded by the second quarter of this year that the markets had stabilised.

Judging that the downward risks were very small when set against potential returns, CIC duly ramped up its investments.

Lou said CIC was investing mainly in publicly traded assets via external fund managers. But as CIC gained experience, it might manage more of this part of its portfolio in house.

CIC had put more money into commodities, real estate and infrastructure to hedge against the risks of medium- and long-term inflation and of a fall in major currencies, he added.

Turning to CIC’s direct investments in sectors such as mining, energy and real estate, Lou said: “At present, the returns are fairly good. But who knows about the future.”

Underlining again that CIC seeks to maximise its investment returns and not to secure commodities as part of a national agenda, Lou said, “I don’t care how many tonnes of oil we can ship back, but I care whether the shares are valuable.” (Reporting by Zhou Xin and Jason Subler; Editing by Alan Wheatley and Lincoln Feast)

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