Capitalism’s new ringmasters yet to win over crowd

cirque-du-soleil.jpgFollowing the news that companies owned by the state of Dubai have taken a 20 per cent stake in Cirque du Soleil, some fresh research on sovereign wealth funds has caught my eye.

Building on material already published, the working paper – from a pensions research body at Wharton business school - ranks 37 public investment bodies around the world on their governance, accountability and investment policies.

Istithmar World, one of the two Dubai bodies that took the stake in Cirque du Soleil, comes in third from bottom in the ranking, just ahead of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Council and the Qatar Investment Authority, which share last place.

The New Zealand Superannuation Fund comes out best, followed by the Alaska Permanent Fund and then the global arm of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund.

Writing before the circus deal was announced, the authors of the paper - Olivia Mitchell, John Piggott and Cagri Kumru - said sovereign wealth funds “appear to be demonstrating an increasing risk appetite, very little transparency and virtually no clarity of objectives”.

Keen readers of the FT will remember that Cirque du Soleil employs a heckler called Madame Zazou to disrupt its management meetings. If she quotes this research in future subversions then she is a very bold jester indeed.

About the authors

Stefan Stern writes a column on Tuesdays on management. He is winner of the 2010 Towers Watson award for excellence in HR journalism, and has previously won awards from the Work Foundation and the Management Consultancies Association.

Ravi Mattu is the editor of Business Life, the FT's management features section, and a former editor of the Mastering Management series. He joined the FT in 2000 from Prospect magazine

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