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World’s Biggest Pension Fund Loses $51 Billion

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Japan's Pension Fund Reports Record $64B Loss

The world’s biggest pension fund posted the worst annual performance since the global financial crisis, with losses exacerbated by unfavorable currency moves and a foray into equity markets.

Japan’s $1.3 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund lost 3.8 percent in the year ended March 31, or 5.3 trillion yen ($51 billion), the retirement manager said Friday in Tokyo. That’s the biggest drop since the fiscal year ended March 31, 2009. GPIF lost 10.8 percent on domestic equities and 9.6 percent on shares in other markets, while Japanese bonds handed the fund a 4.1 percent gain.

The annual loss — GPIF’s first since doubling its allocation to stocks and paring domestic bond holdings in October 2014 — came during a volatile stint for markets. Japanese shares sank 13 percent in the year through March while the yen climbed 6.7 percent against the dollar, reducing returns from overseas investments. The only asset class to post a profit was local debt, which jumped in value as the Bank of Japan’s adoption of negative interest rates sent yields tumbling.

“The results are painful,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, a senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management Co. in Tokyo. “Because it’s a pension fund, they need to have a long-term outlook, so I don’t think we can say yet that they took on too much risk. It was a harsh investment environment for most of us.”

In a press briefing in Tokyo after the results were announced, GPIF President Norihiro Takahashi said he will reflect on the performance, but that the current portfolio has enough flexibility to adapt to different market conditions and he wants to run the fund steadily. Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief government spokesman, said GPIF’s management shouldn’t be influenced by short-term moves and there is absolutely no issue with its financing.

The fund also disclosed individual stock holdings and the issuers of the bonds it held as of March 2015, the first time it’s divulged such detail. GPIF’s biggest investments in stocks were Toyota Motor Corp. and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. in Tokyo and Apple Inc. outside Japan. The fund’s largest debt holdings included Japanese government bonds and U.S. Treasuries. GPIF plans to announce its holdings as of March this year on Nov. 25, and is staggering the releases to avoid impacting markets, fund official Hiro Mitsuishi said on Monday.

Asset Weightings

GPIF held 22 percent of investments in local stocks at the end of March, and 38 percent in domestic bonds. Its overseas equity holdings made up 22 percent, while foreign debt accounted for 13 percent of its assets. Alternative investments were 0.06 percent of holdings, up from 0.04 percent at the end of 2015. GPIF targets allocations of 25 percent each for Japanese and overseas stocks, 35 percent for local bonds and 15 percent for offshore debt.

“They have more than enough room to increase their weighting to Japanese stocks,” said Makoto Sengoku, a market analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Center.

Almost 80 percent of GPIF’s holdings were passive investments, according to the statement. While GPIF’s losses can be mostly attributed to rocky markets and an index-hugging investment approach, its peer in Canada has done better. The $212 billion Canada Pension Plan Investment Board had a 3.4 percent return for the year ended March, with its biggest gain coming from private emerging-market equity investments and real estate.

Losses Expected

Investors “have been fully aware that there would be losses,” Akio Yoshino, chief economist at Amundi Japan Ltd. in Tokyo, said before the fund posted earnings. “What’s more interesting is how this will be used politically, or even misused.”

GPIF’s performance was announced three weeks later than usual, sparking speculation Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was holding off on releasing bad news until after upper-house elections held earlier this month. Opposition lawmakers have been critical of Abe’s decision to increase riskier assets, with the Democratic Party of Japan pledging to return GPIF’s investments to safer assets in its election manifesto.

“We’ve repeatedly pointed out that it’s problematic to invest in stocks, which are high-risk, but the situation is turning into what we feared,” DPJ President Katsuya Okada said in a press conference on July 1. “It’s a grave problem that could lead to reductions in future pensions.”

Investors, however, say GPIF should stay the course.

“They took on more risk, and they posted good returns before, but there’s going to be times when they see losses,” said Koichi Kurose, Tokyo-based chief market strategist at Resona Bank Ltd. “It can’t be helped.”

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Lagos State Government Set to Demolish $200 Million Landmark Beach Resort

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Landmark Beach

The Lagos State Government has issued a demolition warning to the proprietor of the $200 million Landmark Beach Resort, a renowned tourist destination in the region.

The resort nestled along the picturesque coastline faces imminent destruction to make way for the construction of a 700-kilometer coastal road linking Lagos with Calabar.

Paul Onwuanibe, the 58-year-old owner of the Landmark Beach Resort, revealed that he received a notice in late March instructing him to vacate the premises within seven days to facilitate the impending demolition.

The resort, which spans a vast expanse of land and hosts over 80 businesses, is a hub of economic activity, sustaining over 4,000 jobs directly. Also, it contributes more than N2 billion in taxes annually.

The news of the resort’s potential demolition has sparked concerns among investors and stakeholders in the tourism sector. Onwuanibe expressed dismay at the government’s decision, highlighting the substantial investments made in developing the resort’s infrastructure.

He explained that the planned demolition would not only lead to significant financial losses but also jeopardize the livelihoods of thousands of employees and businesses associated with the resort.

The Landmark Beach Resort is a popular tourist destination, attracting approximately one million visitors annually, both local and international. Its unique amenities, including a mini-golf course, beach soccer field, and volleyball and basketball courts, make it a favorite among tourists seeking leisure and recreation.

The prospect of the resort’s demolition has triggered widespread panic among international and domestic investors associated with the Landmark Group. Many are now considering withdrawing their investments, citing concerns about the viability of the business without its flagship beach resort.

The Lagos State Government’s decision to proceed with the demolition is part of its broader plan to construct the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway, a 700-kilometer roadway connecting Lagos to Calabar.

The government had earlier announced its intention to remove all “illegal” constructions along the planned route of the highway, including the Landmark Beach Resort.

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Investors Petition EFCC as Over N3 Billion Trapped in Agrorite Investment Scheme

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Agriculture - Investors King

Investors in one of Nigeria’s agritech crowdfunding platforms, Agrorite, have lodged a petition with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to recover more than N3 billion trapped in the company’s investment scheme.

Agrorite, which touted itself as a premier digital agricultural platform connecting smallholder farmers with finance and markets, is now at the center of a financial debacle.

The investment scheme operated by Agrorite attracted funding from eager investors who were promised returns on investments within a fixed timeframe.

However, the situation took a turn for the worse late last year when investors found themselves unable to access their funds as promised.

Despite repeated assurances from Agrorite’s founder and CEO, Toyosi Ayodele, the repayment deadlines were continually postponed until it became evident that the company had no intention of honoring its commitments.

The magnitude of the crisis became apparent as copies of the petition submitted to the EFCC revealed that investments totaling over N3 billion were trapped in Agrorite’s schemes.

Investors, including one individual who had invested N482 million in a Naira-denominated project and $100,000 in a dollar project, are now pinning their hopes on the EFCC to facilitate the recovery of their funds.

The dire consequences of the situation were tragically highlighted by the case of an elderly woman who had invested her entire pension benefit of N40 million in Agrorite.

Upon realizing that her savings might never be recovered, she collapsed and was rushed to the hospital, underscoring the devastating impact on individual investors’ lives.

Efforts to reach Agrorite’s CEO for comments proved futile, with reports indicating that he had been arrested by the EFCC in connection with the investment debacle.

While some staff members confirmed the CEO’s arrest, they claimed ignorance regarding the reasons behind the company’s inability to fulfill its financial obligations to investors.

According to them, the EFCC’s investigation revealed a severe lack of funds in Agrorite’s accounts, leading to the arrest of key management personnel.

As the EFCC intensifies its efforts to recover investors’ funds, Agrorite’s website, agrorite.com, has mysteriously disappeared from the web, further fueling suspicions of financial mismanagement within the company.

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Treasury Bills Yields Reach 17.67% Amidst Central Bank’s Tightening Policy

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FG Borrows

The Treasury Bills yields rose to 17.67% amidst the Central Bank’s rigorous tightening of monetary policy.

This sharp surge in yields reflects the profound impact of the Central Bank’s efforts to rein in inflation and stabilize the foreign exchange market, though at the expense of investors and borrowers alike.

The surge in Treasury Bills yields from a modest 6.29% at the beginning of the year to 17.67% as of March 26, 2024 underscores the magnitude of the Central Bank’s tightening measures.

This unprecedented rise comes in tandem with a series of aggressive interest rate hikes with the monetary policy rate soaring by 600 basis points to 24.75% since the start of the year. Such a drastic increase in borrowing costs has sent shockwaves through the financial sector and prompted investors to reassess their portfolios and risk appetite.

Analysts attribute this surge in Treasury Bills yields to the Central Bank’s unwavering commitment to curbing inflation and stabilizing the foreign exchange market.

By raising interest rates and tightening monetary policy, the Central Bank aims to stem the tide of rising prices and restore confidence in the Nigerian economy.

However, these measures come with significant repercussions for investors and businesses, as borrowing costs escalate and investment returns diminish.

The Central Bank’s decision to issue a total of N1.64 trillion in Treasury Bills in the second quarter of 2024 further underscores its commitment to tightening liquidity and reducing inflationary pressures.

This substantial issuance of Treasury Bills is expected to absorb excess liquidity from the financial system, thereby exerting downward pressure on inflation and supporting the stability of the Nigerian currency.

While the Central Bank’s tightening policy may yield benefits in terms of price stability and exchange rate management, it poses challenges for investors and borrowers alike.

High borrowing costs and elevated Treasury Bills yields have the potential to dampen investment activity and constrain economic growth, particularly in sectors reliant on credit and financing.

As the Treasury Bills market grapples with soaring yields and heightened volatility, investors are advised to exercise caution and adopt a prudent approach to risk management.

In an environment characterized by uncertainty and policy tightening, navigating the financial markets requires a keen understanding of macroeconomic dynamics and a proactive strategy to mitigate potential risks.

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