China fund looks to London firms

The world's fourth largest sovereign wealth fund, with assets of more than £100bn, is trawling for London agency support.

Old meets new: Beijing is enjoying unprecedented coverage with the Olympics
Old meets new: Beijing is enjoying unprecedented coverage with the Olympics

The China Investment Corporation (CIC), which only began operations a year ago, is famous for owning large stakes in Morgan Stanley and Visa, and private equity firm the Blackstone Group.

The agency search is believed to be down to a final stage of six, with leading City figures heading to Beijing this week to bid for the business.

The move to hire could not come at a more apt time for the state-owned investment fund, with the Olympics bringing unprecedented international focus on Beijing and sovereign wealth fund exposure at an all-time high.

One top-ranking City PR professional said that CIC was 'looking to London' and was 'set to invest' in companies operating or listed in the capital. Once again London's position as an international business hub looks set to benefit the City PR industry.

Sovereign wealth funds have traditionally been seen as vehicles for investing oil-rich nations' wealth and have had little need for international PR support.

But, similar to private equity firms, bigger investments, particularly in the US banking sector, have generated greater exposure and the need for comms advice.

Because of its wealth and potential for investment CIC is constantly linked with London-listed firms. Late last month HSBC shares jumped four per cent in Hong Kong on the back of rumours that CIC officials had met the bank's chairman, Stephen Green, and discussed a possible investment.

The Chinese government appears to have given the go-ahead for greater investment by a variety of its state-led institutions, including China Development Bank, which took a three per cent stake in Barclays last year and was rumoured to have been in talks earlier this year to increase that stake.

CIC follows several sovereign wealth funds in looking for City comms support. Bahrain's sovereign wealth fund, the Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company, signed up FD earlier this year (PRWeek, 11 July).

In April, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), the world's largest fund, brought in its first global comms chief. Euart Glendinning, former head of corporate comms at Morgan Stanley, joined as global head of corporate affairs, advising on ADIA's £350bn-plus worth of investments.

ADIA uses Burson-Marsteller as its retained agency (PRWeek, 11 April).

HOW I SEE IT - David Bick, Chairman, Square 1 Consulting

Sovereign wealth funds have been prepared to invest where conventional investing institutions now fear to tread. The credit crunch means banks will often not lend to each other, let alone to their corporate customers, even when there is a compelling long-term investment case. However, sovereign wealth funds are prepared to invest in this environment and for the long term. They can see beyond the end of the current troubles and should be welcomed for doing so. As we have discovered on a recent project, sovereign wealth funds have a vision that extends beyond five years.

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