Malaysia's $30 billion pension fund to allocate more money for foreign deals

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia’s Retirement Fund Inc aims to lift the overseas portion of its investment portfolio to as much as 15 percent from 12, as the $30 billion pension fund looks to boost performance while domestic returns slow, its chief executive told Reuters.

Retirement Fund Inc, or KWAP, CEO Wan Kamaruzaman Wan Ahmad poses at his office in Luala Lumpur November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Liz Lee

Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (KWAP) - the fund’s local name - will review its asset allocation strategy in the new year, Wan Kamaruzaman Wan Ahmad said at Reuters Global Investment 2018 Outlook Summit. Its current international investments include U.S. ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL], he said.

With 125 billion ringgit ($29.83 billion) worth of assets under management, a 3 percentage point increase means a shift of $900 million into foreign deals, a Reuters calculation showed.

The state-linked pension fund received board approval in 2013 to invest up to 19 percent of assets abroad. But a 23 percent dive in the ringgit MYR= in 2015 saw the government urge funds to repatriate capital and limit foreign exposure.

As domestic investment increased, however, the main share price index .KLSE continued a decline which began in 2014. The index is up 6 percent in 2017 but is still one of the region's worst performers. Returns on many domestic investments are therefore lower than global investments even though the ringgit is weaker than three years ago, Wan Kamaruzaman said.

“The target is to increase by 7 percent (to 19 percent) but we might look at 15 percent which is more realistic,” the executive said, declining to elaborate on regions or sectors of focus.


KWAP put $30 million into Uber last year as its first foreign, disruptive-technology investment, and was considering more technology-related deals.

Wan Kamaruzaman said the Uber investment was long-term, and that the fund was waiting for potential investment from Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp 9984.T - which has said it is considering investing - to estimate any gains.

“Let’s see the valuations,” Wan Kamaruzaman said. “If it does (invest), we will know whether our investment is in the money or not.”

KWAP is currently considering participating in a fund that Alibaba Group Holding Ltd BABA.N aims to raise. The Chinese e-commerce firm plans to invest in regional small businesses in the Digital Free Trade Zone which it launched with Malaysia's government. Wan Kamaruzaman said talks were at an early stage.

He also reiterated an end to talks over buying a stake in AMMB Holdings Bhd (AmBank) AMMB.KL from Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd ANZ.AX, which owns 24 percent.

“KWAP has always been a financial investor,” he said. “We don’t want to acquire any controlling stakes in any company. If there’s a smaller (AmBank) stake to be sold, we might consider it, but the bank needs a driver.”

The fund is now in talks to buy stakes in the Malaysian units of Great Eastern Life Assurance Company Ltd [GELAS.UL] and Prudential PLC PRU.L, as the insurers seek local shareholders to satisfy central bank ownership regulations.

“We have received central bank approval to begin talks and we have started but it is very preliminary,” Wan Kamaruzaman said.

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Reporting by Liz Lee; Editing by Christopher Cushing