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Older and wiser: How sovereign wealth has responded to Covid-19

It could be argued Covid-19 is the moment sovereign wealth funds were made for: a shocking disruption to national economies that calls for a stable, patiently invested buffer. Sovereign fund reactions have been varied, from drawdowns to contrarian investments, from domestic backstop deals to attempts to be directly involved in developing vaccines. But they’re all bigger, shrewder and hopefully smarter than they were during the GFC.

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Rainy days are unpredictable. You don’t know when they will come, how bad they will be or how long they will last. The only thing you do know for sure is that they’re coming.

Countries build sovereign wealth funds for these rainy days and it is hard to imagine a time more suited to their raison d’etre than right now – a global pandemic, unexpected and unique, its duration and behaviour unclear, combined with a shutdown of global economies, a curtailment of international travel and therefore much of the world’s trade.

A decade ago, when sovereign funds were fewer, newer and smaller, they came to the fore during the global financial crisis, piling into the world’s big banks with a mixture of wisdom and ineptitude, sometimes both.

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Chris Wright is Asia editor. He covers the Asia Pacific region and is based in Singapore. He has previously been Middle East editor of Euromoney, editor of Asiamoney, investment editor of the Australian Financial Review and a correspondent on emerging markets and sovereign wealth for numerous publications worldwide. He has also written two books.
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