Singapore’s GIC Cautious About Seeking Higher Returns as Yields Remain Low

GIC Cautious About Seeking Higher Returns as Yields Remain Low

Government of Singapore Investment Corp., which manages more than $100 bilion of assets, said it’s more “cautious” about seeking higher returns on its assets as yields remain low. The average annual return on bond yields will be about 1.9 percent over the next decade, while equities may offer a 1.6 percent median real return a year during that period, said Lim Chow Kiat, chief investment officer of the fund, citing different portfolio models.

“We are getting more cautious in reaching out for higher yielding assets,” Lim, who assumed his position in February, said at a conference in Singapore today. “No one can predict when the end game will be, but we can prepare for it.” Central banks are putting downward pressure on benchmark borrowing costs, leading investors to seek higher-yielding assets outside of government bond markets. U.S. 10-year rates fell to an all-time low of 1.38 percent in July, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rallied to a record this week. “Central banks will find it hard to exit from this quantitative easing policy,” Lim said, adding that “substantial risks remain.”

Investors have had “largely good returns” over the past three decades, Lim said, and they are seeing the latest part of a 30-year credit expansion cycle with low interest rates.

‘Bubbles Everywhere’

“We see bubbles everywhere,” Bill Gross, who runs the world’s biggest bond fund at Pacific Investment Management Co., said on Bloomberg Television last week. “As long as the Fed, and the Bank of Japan and other central banks keep writing checks and don’t withdraw, then the bubble can be supported.”

GIC said in July its cash allocation almost quadrupled to 11 percent of its portfolio in the year ended March from 3 percent a year earlier. Stock holdings fell to 45 percent from 49 percent as it pared equities in developed markets, while bond investments dropped to 17 percent from 22 percent, it said in its annual report.

The so-called 20-year annualized real return was 3.9 percent as of March 2012, unchanged from the previous year, it said. The annualized nominal rate of return in U.S. dollar terms was 3.4 percent over five years, 7.6 percent over 10 years and 6.8 percent over 20 years, it said. The fund, which doesn’t report an annual return or disclose the actual size of its portfolio, is expected release its next performance figures for the year ended March in July.

More Temptations

“As price of risk assets improve, there are more pressures and temptations to reach out,” said Lim, 42, who previously oversaw GIC’s investments and relationships in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Lim said there are investment opportunities in technology, such as China’s growing online retail market, as well as the rising middle class in emerging economies. About one in two middle-class consumers will come from Asia within seven years, he said.

“Though valuations are not low currently, longer-term prospects are not to be missed,” he said.

GIC is ranked the eighth-largest government investment fund globally by the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, which estimates it manages $247.5 billion.

To contact the reporters on this story: Klaus Wille in Singapore at kwille@bloomberg.net; Pooja Thakur in Singapore at pthakur@bloomberg.net

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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