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World’s Biggest Pension Fund Loses $64 Billion

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Pension

The world’s biggest pension fund posted its worst quarterly loss since at least 2008 after a global stock rout in August and September wiped $64 billion off the Japanese asset manager’s investments.

The 135.1 trillion yen ($1.1 trillion) Government Pension Investment Fund lost 5.6 percent last quarter as the value of its holdings declined by 7.9 trillion yen, according to documents released Monday in Tokyo. That’s the biggest percentage drop in comparable data starting from April 2008. The fund lost 8 trillion yen on its domestic and foreign equities and 241 billion yen on overseas debt, while Japanese bonds handed GPIF a 302 billion yen gain.

The loss was GPIF’s first since doubling its allocation to stocks and reducing debt last October, and highlights the risk of sharp short-term losses that come with the fund’s more aggressive investment style. Fund executives have argued that holding more shares and foreign assets is a better approach as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to spur inflation that would erode the purchasing power of bonds.

“Short term market moves lead to gains and losses, but over the 14 years since we started investing, the overall trend is upwards,” Hiroyuki Mitsuishi, a councilor at GPIF, said at a press conference in Tokyo. “Don’t evaluate the results over the short term, as looking over the long term is important.”

Passive Investments

GPIF had 39 percent of its assets in Japanese debt at Sept. 30, and 21 percent in the nation’s equities, according to the statement. That compares with 38 percent and 23 percent three months earlier, respectively. The fund had 22 percent of its investments in foreign stocks at the end of September, and 14 percent in overseas bonds.

The retirement fund’s stock investments are largely passive, meaning returns typically track benchmark gauges. GPIF’s Japan equities slid 13 percent, the same decline posted by the Topix index, as China’s yuan devaluation and concern about the potential impact if the Federal Reserve raises interest rates roiled global markets. The fund lost 11 percent on its foreign equity holdings. Shares have rebounded since Sept. 30, with the Topix climbing 12 percent.

The fund can hedge its foreign-exchange risk if needed, Mitsuishi said, while declining to comment on whether GPIF had, or plans to start doing so.

Japanese Bonds

GPIF’s 0.6 percent return on Japanese debt compares with an 0.9 percent advance on a Bloomberg gauge of the nation’s sovereign bonds during the period. The fund’s foreign debt investments lost 1.3 percent during the quarter, as the yen strengthened 2.2 percent.

GPIF hadn’t posted a quarterly loss since the three months through March 2014. The most recent results included returns from a portfolio of government bonds issued to finance a fiscal investment and loan program, with GPIF providing such figures since 2008. If those are stripped out, the drop was the fund’s third-worst on record, exceeded only by declines in the depths of the 2008 global financial crisis and the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund lost 4.9 percent in the third quarter, with equity investments sliding 8.6 percent, its manager said on Oct. 28.

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board delivered a 1.6 percent gain in the same period, with the fund’s President Mark Wiseman crediting diversification across assets and geographies for the result. It held about 51 percent of its portfolio in public and private equities, 29 percent in fixed income and about 20 percent in real estate and infrastructure investments.

“Compared to our past portfolio, swings in returns have become wider,” Mitsuishi said. “But in the long-term view, we see there’s less risk of failing to meet pension payouts with the new portfolio.”

Bloomberg

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Finance

North Korean Hackers Siphon Cryptocurrencies Worth $400m in 2021

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Cyber Security - Investors King

A report by Chainalysis, a blockchain analysis firm has revealed that North Korea launched at least seven attacks on cryptocurrency platforms extracting nearly $400 million worth of digital assets last year.

The targets of the hacks were not identified, but the report noted that the victims were basic investment firms and centralized exchanges, including Liquid.com. The exchange company had announced in August that an unauthorized user had accessed some of the cryptocurrency wallets it managed.

The hackers were said to have used phishing lures, code exploits, malware, and advanced social engineering to steal organizations’ internet-connected ‘hot’ wallets funds. The funds were traced to North Korea-controlled addresses.

Last year, the US charged three North Korean computer programmers – working for the Asian country’s intelligence service, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, – accusing them of years-long hacking spree, aimed at stealing more than $1.3 billion in money and cryptocurrency, from companies, banks and Hollywood movie studios.

Chainalysis explained that the hacking group, the Lazarus Group likely carried out the majority of last year’s cyberattacks. According to the United States, the group is controlled by the North Korean intelligence.

The Lazarus Group had faced accusations of being involved in attacks on International banks and customer accounts, including an earlier 2014 cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment using the “WannaCry” ransomware.

The report added that 2021 was one of the most successful years on record for crypto hackers and cyber attackers.

It should be recalled that Investors King reported that CheckPoint Solutions Technology said Africa has about 1,600 cyber attacks in the year under review, while North America records about 497 attacks weekly. Weekly attacks globally amount to a total of 5,193 as Asia records 1,299 attacks, Latin America (1,117), and Europe with 665 attacks

“From 2020 to 2021, the number of North Korean-linked hacks jumped from four to seven, and the value extracted from these hacks grew by 40%. Once North Korea gained custody of the funds, they began a careful laundering process to cover up and cash out,” the Chainalysis report noted.

Some of the hackers are still said to be sitting on the stolen funds, not spending them, in hopes that they could outwit law enforcement’s interest before cashing out.

However, According to United Nations experts monitoring sanctions on North Korea, the country has used stolen funds to support its nuclear and ballistic missile programs to circumvent sanctions. The Asian country also appeared to step up efforts to launder stolen cryptocurrency, by significantly increasing its use of mixers, or software tools that pool and scramble cryptocurrencies from thousands of addresses, Chainalysis said.

Researchers had also identified $170 million in old, unlaundered cryptocurrency holdings from 49 separate hacks spanning from 2017 to 2021, the report added.

North Korea has still not responded to media inquiries, but has previously released statements denying allegations of hacking. Without any official word for the cyber attacks traced to the country, “Whatever the reason may be, the length of time that (North Korea) is willing to hold on to these funds is illuminating, because it suggests a careful plan, not a desperate and hasty one,” Chainalysis concluded.

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Banking Sector

Parallex Bank Limited Promises Limitless Possibilities

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Parallex Bank

The latest entrant into the commercial banking industry in Nigeria, Parallex Bank has officially launched on Friday, January 14, 2022, with the promise to redefine the banking landscape in Nigeria and Africa at large. The bank launch was graced by several dignitaries from both the private and public sector. Also in attendance were several celebrities who witnessed the unveiling of the bank’s logo.

Introducing the bank to the gathering at the bank’s headquarters in Victoria Island Lagos, the chairman of the bank, Dr. Adeola Phillips said Parallex Bank is here to make a unique statement about what innovation can do in an industry that is constantly reinventing.  She further stated that the bank will operate broadly with a competitive mindset, to disrupt the market and delight customers with very attractive offers. The goal is to empower the banking public and to drive convenient and efficient commerce through the bank digital platforms. She added that the Parallex mobile app offers customers the freedom to do much more. The app will eliminate inconveniencies and hardships often faced by customers while carrying out transactions.

Corroborating the Chairman’s claims, the Managing Director of Parallex Bank, Mr. Olufemi Bakre, popularly known as Mayor, said the bank’s promise to its customers is to be an enabler of limitless banking. He established that Parallex Bank is the first bank in Nigeria to migrate from a microfinance bank to a commercial bank. He is convinced that Parallex Bank limited will achieve more as the bank partners with customers to explore more business opportunities.

Mr Olufemi said the vision of Parallex Bank is to be the preferred financial solution provider redefining customer experience through innovation. He assured customers of excellent banking products and services stating that the bank offerings are designed to address the yearnings of Nigerians. With a strong ecosystem anchored around the customer, Mr Femi informed the guests that the bank has a robust product portfolio that is customer focused, innovative and simple.

According to him, the Parallex mobile app has unique features and benefits that are quite rare in this market. On the app, customers can choose to create their unique account numbers, increase their transfer limits, make five free transfers per day to any bank in Nigeria. They can request for free debit cards, which will be delivered to them for free. They will receive prompt responses to enquiries.

Beyond the app, Mayor added that customers will enjoy zero maintenance fees while current account holders will further enjoy up to 5% interest rate provided, they maintain a minimum average balance of N100,000.

 

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Finance

Newly Launched Pan-African Payment System Will Make Cross-Border Transactions Easier– Emefiele

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Godwin Emefiele - Investors King

Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele has described the newly launched Pan-African payment and settlement system (PAPSS) as a platform that will make cross-border transactions easier.

He added that the payment system will also reduce dollars, pounds and euros known as third currencies for transactions in Africa.

The CBN governor, at the launching of PAPSS on Thursday in Accra, Ghana, stated that the launched platform will improve West Africa’s means of transaction.

PAPSS was launched by Africa Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), in partnership with African Union (AU) and African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The platform which is now available for commercial use was described as a milestone which will give fresh opportunity and aspiration for Africa.

Emefiele noted that CBN will ensure that financial institutions under it embrace PAPSS, while firmly recommending it to businesses in the country.

He further reiterated the Central Bank of Nigeria’s commitment to enhance the widespread adoption, acceptance and implementation of the platform.

According to Emefiele, the Pan-African payment and settlement system will benefit households, businesses, and financial institutions.

It will channel Africa towards growth and  formalise transactions not captured in the official trade data.

“For example, businesses can be assured of an efficient and reliable payment gateway that supports the instant flow of funds and relatively the use of safe payment channels that usually comes at a high cost to households and businesses.

“The launch of PAPPS gives the fresh opportunity and aspiration for the African continent. It will simplify cross-border transactions, reduce third currencies for intra-African transactions and remove the need for correspondent Banks and ultimately amplify intra trade significantly.

“As a percentage of total trade, intra-African trade is expected to increase to 35% from 15% in five years with infrastructure provided by PAPSS as payments and settlements are resolved,” Emefiele stated.

Explaining the relevance of the new system, the CBN governor said settlements for intra Africa trade required a third currency and a non-African correspondent bank which had caused a loss of about $5 billion every year and lowered trade in African countries.

He lauded the newly introduced system put in place to curb further loss in the continent.

Emefiele stated that Nigeria is pleased by the features of PAPSS which made it participate actively in the programme for success to be achieved. 

“With the growing pace of digitisation in financial services which has been accelerated from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, PAPSS can serve as a viable platform for supporting e-commerce in Africa,” CBN governor assured.

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