Singapore wealth fund GIC sees opportunities in China market turmoil

An investor in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Fuyang, China, July 28, 2015.

Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC is finding fresh opportunities to invest in the volatile China market amid restrictions imposed by the regulator on investors who own large stakes in Chinese companies.

"It did open up some opportunities for people like us which take a longer-term view and we don't have such kinds of liquidity constraints. That is a clear positive," Lim Chow Kiat, group chief investment officer, told Reuters as the fund unveiled its annual report.

Lim said that in view of the restrictions, some investors were selling shares in which they had minority stakes due to redemption pressure, allowing long-term investors to step in.

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China's securities regulator earlier this month took the drastic step of banning shareholders with stakes of more than 5 percent from selling shares for the next six months in a bid to halt a plunge in stock prices.

GIC does not disclose its exact exposure to China, but its annual report said North Asia - China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea - accounted for 15 percent of its portfolio for the period ended March 31.

Singapore's other sovereign investor, Temasek Holdings, also said earlier this month it was also willing to bet on China despite the volatility.

Temasek's underlying China exposure stands at 27 percent, second only to its Singapore exposure.

GIC is the world's eighth-biggest sovereign wealth fund, managing $344 billion in assets, according to Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute.

Lim said the latest gyration in China's stock market was a result of "very aggressive market speculation", but added he did not expect the episode to upset ongoing economic reforms.

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"We don't see this as amounting to something that would distract or derail their efforts and their determination to get the economy on a sustainable path," he said.

According to StreetSight data, based on a July 21 filing, GIC had invested in 52 listed stocks in mainland China which were valued at nearly $7 billion.

GIC's latest annual report on Thursday showed that over a five-year period, its portfolio returned 6.5 percent per annum in U.S. dollar nominal terms, compared to 12.4 percent in its previous five-year period ended March 2014.

GIC achieved a 20-year annualized real rate of return of 4.9 percent for the financial year ended March 31, while in U.S. dollar nominal terms, it posted an annualized return of 6.1 percent over 20 years.

This means that $100 invested with GIC in 1995 would have grown to $327 today, it said.

"We cannot expect this level of returns to continue. The current high asset prices are likely to result in low returns over the next 5 to 10 years," GIC said.

"The sharp rise of asset prices, when the global economy is still struggling to gain a firm foothold, makes the investment environment particularly uncertain and unpredictable."