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Opinion

CIC’s annual report recalls a bygone era

What can we learn from the China Investment Corporation’s latest numbers, which cover the year prior to Covid?

Chris Wright on Asia 1920px.jpg

Sovereign wealth funds, with their long reporting time, tend to put out annual reports that reflect the rear-view mirror rather than the present reality. With China Investment Corporation, it looks more like ancient history.

CIC’s annual report is always a long way in arrears of its own numbers, usually seven months or so, but this time it took until September 25, 2020 for the Chinese sovereign fund to announce its numbers for the year to December 31, 2019. The result is like discovering a faded postcard from another time.

CIC reported a 17.4% return on its overseas investments in 2019, driven by a rally in global equity markets. As an overall institution – CIC has an odd subsidiary called Central Huijin that holds the country’s remaining stakes in the state banks, which don’t appear in the investment performance numbers but do appear in the profits – it recorded a 70% increase in net income, to $110.3 billion.

Ah, those were the days: when markets went steadily and predictably up, nobody had ever heard of Covid-19 and we all used to get on aircraft. Unlike the recent Temasek reports, this is perhaps a historical curiosity rather than a document that tells us much about the pandemic response from the largest institution in the country where that pandemic started.


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