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Middle East: The shadowy world of Gulf sovereign wealth

The strategies and dimensions of Gulf sovereign wealth funds are an arcane subject made more mysterious by the lack – apart from Abu Dhabi’s fund – of published annual reports. Euromoney pieces together a picture of their structure from the fragments of information available.

In March 2010, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority – probably the world’s biggest sovereign fund – launched its first ever annual report.

It’s hard to overstate just how big a step this was. A couple of years earlier, visitors to Adia’s website, reasonably hoping to learn more about one of the world’s largest and most influential institutional investors, had been greeted with a picture of Adia’s gleaming headquarters on Abu Dhabi’s Corniche, a phone and fax number – and absolutely nothing else. They clicked in the hope of reaching other pages, more information, a hint of strategy and approach, but there were no links to click.

So Adia’s annual report, although lacking the magic number of its total assets, was a big deal. And there was a feeling then that this was the start of a new period of openness among the Middle East’s powerful and growing sovereign wealth funds: that, galvanized by the Santiago Principles that urge sovereign funds towards greater disclosure, we would soon know how the Kuwait Investment Authority, the Qatar Investment Authority, maybe even the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, invest their cash.

Adia put out its third annual report in June, and it remains a loner in terms of transparency.

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