Chris Wright

Chris Wright is a journalist specialising in business and financial journalism across Asia, Australia and the Middle East.

We’ve had Brics and Biits, the Mints and the Fragile Five. It’s now Africa’s term to acquire an investment appellation: the Africa 8.

This refers to the handful of Africa’s 56 countries that Ecobank, the Togo-based pan-African bank, believes will represent the main drivers of the continent in the long term. It’s an eclectic mix: alongside familiar African growth stories like Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are less celebrated countries Rwanda, Mozambique, Angola and – probably the least understood of them all – the Republic of the Congo. Continue reading »

News that Abdulmagid Breish has been removed from his position as chairman of the Libyan Investment Authority brings yet another tortuous diversion to the troubled institution’s management. But does it make much of a difference to the fund’s ambitions?

Breish was asked to leave his position because of an inquiry under Libya’s Political Isolation Law, a piece of legislation brought in last year that prohibits those who held high office with the Gaddafi administration from serving in senior roles in the post-revolutionary government. Continue reading »

Last week this blog looked at the investment case for Iraq under the headline: “A frontier too far?” So we were struck by a new report today on neighbouring Iran with the opening line: “Iran is beyond the final frontier for portfolio investors.”

One can quibble about which frontier is further but in truth investment in Iran is not so outlandish. The nuclear deal struck between Iran and several world powers in November prompted a renewed look at the investment case for Iran, as has been the case for other markets that have come in from the cold after international isolation, most recently Burma. But in fact, even in isolation, Iran’s capital markets have grown just fine. Continue reading »

There are frontier investment markets, and then there is Iraq. Bombings and fighting killed at least 42 people on Thursday alone, in nine or more separate explosions from Baghdad to Fallujah; yet so commonplace is the violence that the news merited few headlines. After all, at least 24 had died in explosions the previous day.

Yet despite the violence and uncertainty, fund managers and bankers are venturing in to the country, attracted by oil wealth and a surprisingly upbeat outlook for national GDP growth. Continue reading »

Nigeria has been beloved of investors lately, the accessible face of an irresistible rising demographic in sub-Saharan Africa. But it faces challenges, and none more so than the paucity of its infrastructure.

A new report this week by Ecobank spells out just how big that infrastructure gap is, and how it is replicated widely almost everywhere in mid-Africa. And it does so at a vital moment, as Nigeria is about to move to the second stage in its privatisation programme, involving the completion and sale of 10 national integrated power projects (NPPs), with a target of the end of March. Continue reading »

As Argentina’s economy enters crisis mode with the peso crumbling, nobody is watching more closely than the management of Repsol and its shareholders.

On January 29 the Repsol board will meet, as it does on the last Wednesday of every month. On the agenda will be the finer details of a proposal by the Argentinian government to compensate Repsol for having nationalised its controlling stake in Argentina’s biggest oil firm, YPF, in May 2012. Continue reading »

The retirement of Gao Xiqing as president of the China Investment Corporation, China’s sovereign wealth fund, has fund managers wondering what the change of leadership will mean for asset allocation and the fund’s use of external managers.

Gao, one of the CIC’s founders, and instrumental in many of its most well-known (and sometimes ill-fated) deals, is to be replaced by Li Keping, who is the chief investment officer. This is the second change in top leadership positions at CIC in less than a year, with Ding Xuedong becoming chairman of CIC in July 2013. Continue reading »

Partners in wealth

Wednesday’s announcement that Russia and South Korea would work together on an economic project in North Korea slightly overshadowed another significant announcement linked to Putin’s Seoul visit: a new cross-border investment fund between Korea Investment Corporation and its Russian sovereign wealth fund counterpart, the Russian Direct Investment Corporation.

The fund will start out at $500m, with commitments of $250m apiece, but is expected to reach $1bn in time. It also gives an illustration of how the two sovereign wealth funds are evolving. Continue reading »

The UK’s decision to launch an Islamic bond has been a long time coming. For a decade the prospect has been raised at the many Islamic finance conferences that have been held in London; Ed Balls, when he was City of London minister, announced the first Shariah-compliant government bonds from the UK Treasury back in April 2007.

The rationale then, as now, was to bolster London’s standing as an international financial centre. The logic then, as now, was that London ought to offer everything it can to financial markets, and that if launching a sovereign sukuk bond helps to create a benchmark for others to issue against, then that’s what it should do so as not to miss out. Continue reading »

So, ICBC is to become China’s first mainland bank to issue an offshore renminbi bond in London. The launch, which should take place next month, is a further milestone in the development of the renminbi as an international currency, and demonstrates London’s growing role as the European time zone centre for renminbi tradingContinue reading »

China’s biggest bank has launched a landmark deal that will help other Asian banks understand what they will have to pay for regulatory capital under Basel III, the new banking standard.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Asia), the international funding arm of ICBC, the largest bank in the world by both assets and market capitalization, raised $500m this week in a bond issue. The deal is significant as the first tier two dollar bond from Asia to be compliant with the Basel III standards, developed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision in 2010 to try to avert a repeat of the global financial crisis. Continue reading »

Asian fund passport plans, to borrow the old cliché, are like London buses: you wait ages for one and then three come at once.

Wednesday’s announcement between the regulatory bodies of Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand to create a system for cross-border distribution of mutual funds was the third in the region this year. Continue reading »

The headlines on Temasek’s annual review, published on Thursday, will likely focus on the 8.86 per cent one-year return and the tripling of the portfolio’s value in 10 years to S$215bn.

But the interesting long-term story at the Singapore state investment company lies in the its asset allocations. Continue reading »

One of the world’s largest fixed income fund managers expects Asia’s growing energy shortage to lead to investment opportunities in the credit markets.

Pimco, the US-based manager with $2.04tn in assets under management worldwide, said in a report released in Hong Kong on Tuesday that more oil and gas companies in Asia would tap the bond market, often to finance acquisitions outside the region as they come to terms with energy shortages caused by declining indigenous resources and increasing domestic consumption. Continue reading »

There is a new man at the top of the China Investment Corporation (CIC), China’s sovereign wealth fund, prompting debate about whether the change in personnel will also mean a change in approach.

Lou Jiwei (pictured), who is still listed in CIC’s website as chairman and chief executive officer, became China’s finance minister in March. His successor has not been formally named but it has been locally reported that he is Tu Guangshao, the executive vice mayor of Shanghai. Continue reading »