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Are sovereign wealth funds “white knights”?

  • Jerome Couturier
  • Davide Sola
  • Paul Stonham
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    Purpose – In the continuing credit squeeze, sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) are still active in international lending and are eagerly sought out by large, cash-strapped companies in the West. The purpose of this paper is to examine their nature and strategies before and after the onslaught of the credit crunch and global economic downturn in order to advise corporates on how best to design their strategies and terms in approaching the SWFs for funds. Design/methodology/approach – An analysis is made of SWFs in their dealings with Western corporate borrowers and a case study made of Barclays Bank which, faced with three major options in 2008 to raise a large amount of cash, chose to attract funding from three Gulf SWFs. Findings – SWFs certainly qualify as lenders of last resort (“white knights”), providing ready loans, albeit on premium terms, at a current time of severely restricted credit supply from other sources. Alternative sources of funds – stockholders and government bail-out – also suffer from disadvantages relating to the characteristics of their loans. Practical implications – Corporate borrowers should currently view SWFs as attractive “white knight” sources of loans when other providers are constrained. The analysis in this paper, including the experience of a major borrower, Barclays Bank, suggests that SWFs are demanding tougher terms as a result of their strong bargaining positions and historical losses, and that companies should tailor SWF loan contracts to contain maximum incentives and safeguards to produce successful results. Originality/value – This is the first paper to analyse the new role and strategies of SWFs in the credit crisis context, as well as the required response of cash-strapped companies seeking loans from them.

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    Article provided by Emerald Group Publishing in its journal Qualitative Research in Financial Markets.

    Volume (Year): 1 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 3 (September)
    Pages: 142-151

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    Handle: RePEc:eme:qrfmpp:v:1:y:2009:i:3:p:142-151
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    1. Roland Beck & Michael Fidora, 2008. "The impact of sovereign wealth funds on global financial markets," Intereconomics: Review of European Economic Policy, Springer, vol. 43(6), pages 349-358, November.
    2. Oliver Hart & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1996. "The Proper Scope of Government: Theory and an Application to Prisons," NBER Working Papers 5744, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Jason Kotter & Ugur Lel, 2008. "Friends or foes? The stock price impact of sovereign wealth fund investments and the price of keeping secrets," International Finance Discussion Papers 940, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    4. Shai Bernstein & Josh Lerner & Antoinette Schoar, 2009. "The Investment Strategies of Sovereign Wealth Funds," NBER Working Papers 14861, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Edwin M. Truman, 2007. "Sovereign Wealth Funds: The Need for Greater Transparency and Accountability," Policy Briefs PB07-6, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
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