NORWAY/GREECE - Norway's public pension fund appears to be the biggest proportional loser from knock-on effects of Greece's debt woes, after Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) boosted its holdings in Greek equities by 45.8% during the second half of 2009, according to analysis of publicly available data by researchers Ipreo.
Ipreo said most of NBIM's Greek holdings are on behalf of Norway's Government Pension Fund - Global, a continuation of the nation's Petroleum fund established in 1990. Greek shares have fallen by 14.6% since the start of the year, and 19.6% from their peak in mid-January, as investors expressed increasing concerns over the country's financial stability.
Since 30 June 2009, the Athens Stock Exchange General Index is off 15.8%, though it wasn't all downhill. It rose by 31% to peak on October 14, 2009, but has fallen back since then.
With US$1.14bn across 47 stocks at the start of this year, Norges is the largest holder of Greek equities, Ipreo said. The increase in the manager's exposure to Greece between June and December was the highest proportional rise encountered among 32 investment management groups Ipreo listed.
Asset manager Capital Research Global Investors was the second largest holder of Greek equities, with $1.1bn spread across eight stocks, although it cut its holdings by 13.3% in last year's second half.
Dutch pension fund manager APG had $698m invested through 12 stocks.
Eurozone and International Monetary Fund officials are still working on the details of a support package for Greece, worth up to €45bn (US$60bn).
Ratings agency Fitch said the nation needed to refinance more than €20bn of debt maturing this month and next. Goldman Sachs reportedly told clients today it would not be surprised if Greece undertook a voluntary restructuring of its debt while making use of the rescue package.
Prime Minister George Papandreou already hiked taxes and cut spending and public sector wages in a bid to narrow its budget shortfall by 4% of GDP to 8.7% this year.
Categorised by nation, the Dutch were keenest on Greek equities at the start of this year, holding $1.37bn after boosting their holdings by 4.9% since June. Of this total, $698m was held by APG - All Pensions Group, followed by Fortis Investment Management Netherlands with $261.3m and ING Investment Management Advisors with $155.2m.
French investors held $1.2bn after increasing their holdings marginally by 0.6% in the second half of 2009.
Norway ran third, thanks almost entirely to Norges Bank Investment Management.
Some major institutional investors had a limited exposure by scaling back their holdings between June and December.
Eaton Vance Management cut an already modest exposure by 73.2%, or $17.6m, leaving it with $6.4m by the start of this year. Germany's DWS Investment culled its holdings by 43.5% to $56.3m. New Jersey Division of Investment did best, however, offloading its entire $108m holding, Ipreo said. The researchers gave no details on hedging mechanisms any of the investors might have installed to soften any losses.
Philippe Risacher, director of global markets intelligence at Ipreo, said some investors were now looking for the right point to buy into the Greek stock market at cheaper levels.
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