New tera-tory: Norway’s oil-fuelled sovereign wealth fund hits US$1 trillion in value

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 September, 2017, 10:17am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 September, 2017, 5:34pm

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest of its kind, has hit a milestone value of US$1 trillion, beating all expectations since its creation over 20 years ago.

The fund, which reached its record value early Tuesday, has been boosted lately by a rise in stock markets and a weaker US dollar, which increases the dollar value of its holdings in other currencies.

Norway first deposited oil and gas profits into the fund in May 1996 and CEO Yngve Slyngstad said nobody at the time had expected it to hit the trillion dollar mark, calling the growth “stunning.”

The fund invests proceeds from the country’s oil and gas industry to secure pensions for future generations in Norway, a country of merely 5.3 million people.

Because of its sheer size, the fund does not reinvest all its money in Norway, or it would overheat the economy. So it places it worldwide, with some 42 per cent in North America, 36 per cent in Europe and 18 per cent in Asia.

Of the total, 65 per cent is in stocks – including a US$7.4 billion stake in Apple and US$5.5 billion in Alphabet. It puts 32 per cent in fixed-income like bonds, and 2.5 per cent in unlisted real estate, according to data from the company that handles the fund, the Norges Bank Investment Management.

While there are bigger investment funds around the world, Norway’s is the biggest sovereign wealth fund, specifically meant to invest the wealth of a country’s citizens.

Norwegian lawmakers passed a law in 1990 to establish a government-owned oil and gas fund. In 1998, its management was transferred from the Norwegian finance ministry over to the Norges Bank Investment Management, a unit of the Norwegian central bank.