Norway’s $1.4 Trillion Wealth Fund Returns 10% on Tech Surge

Norway’s $1.4 trillion sovereign wealth fund returned 10%, or $143 billion, in the first half, indicating it’s back on track following one of the worst years in its history.

(Bloomberg) — Norway’s $1.4 trillion sovereign wealth fund returned 10%, or $143 billion, in the first half, indicating it’s back on track following one of the worst years in its history.

The manager of Norway’s oil and gas riches gained just under 14% on equities in the six months through June, while fixed-income investments returned 2.3%, according to the report posted on its website late on Tuesday. Unlisted real estate holdings were down 4.6%. The fund’s report was set to be released Wednesday.

The return was boosted by a rebound in technology stocks after a weak 2022. The Oslo-based fund managed to navigate the wobbly investment environment in the first part of the year as fast inflation and central bank campaigns to tame price increases coincided with banking industry tumult in the US and Europe.

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Still, the fund took a hit on the collapse of SVB Financial Group’s Silicon Valley Bank, prompting Chief Executive Officer Nicolai Tangen to tell lawmakers in April that he was focused on minimizing exposure to so-called rotten apples going forward. He’s also repeatedly warned that borrowing costs and soaring inflation are likely to weigh on returns in the years to come.

Its biggest stock holdings were Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp and Alphabet Inc at the end of the half, while its largest bond holdings were in U.S. Treasuries, followed by Japanese and German government bonds.

The fund underperformed its benchmark by 0.23 percentage point, pulled down by unlisted real estate and renewable energy infrastructure, marking a third straight quarter of negative relative returns, NBIM said. Unlisted property contributed a negative 0.26 percentage point, driven primarily by investments in the US office sector.

Expected shortfall, or the expected loss of a portfolio in extreme market situations, dropped to 1.04 percentage points from 1.22 percentage points at the end of 2022. The credit quality of the bond portfolio was virtually unchanged compared to year-end.

More than 80 “unwanted operational events” were registered in the first half, losing the fund about 1.1 billion kroner ($104 million). Most of this loss was associated with a single mistake caused by the incorrect data being used, NBIM said.

Created in the 1990s to invest Norway’s oil and gas revenues abroad, the fund – also known as Norges Bank Investment Management – is the world’s biggest single owner of equities, largely tracking a benchmark index based on a framework handed down by parliament.

It is increasingly using its muscle to take a stronger stance against companies that fail to prioritize action on climate change, gender balance and executive pay. It voted on over 94,000 shareholder proposals in the first half and held 1,675 company meetings.

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Equities made up 71.3% of the value of the fund, fixed income 26.4% and unlisted real estate 2.3%, while unlisted renewable energy infrastructure made up 0.1%, it said. The government deposited 389 billion kroner into the fund in the six months through June. 

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(Updates with biggest holdings in fifth paragraph, expected shortfall in seventh, operational events in eighth)

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