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Mon 6 Apr 2009 10:46 AM

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Heads of SWFs agree on better 'cooperation'

Kuwait meeting debates increase in political involvement in markets, post-crisis.

Heads of sovereign wealth funds which control $3 trillion of assets opened a meeting in Kuwait on Sunday with a call for coordination in the face of the global economic meltdown.

"This crisis places an extra pressure on our group to have increased coordination and greater cooperation," Bader al-Saad, managing director of Kuwait's sovereign fund, Kuwait Investment Authority, said at the opening session.

Sovereign wealth funds bought stakes in many big banks including UBS, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch to help bale them out during last year's credit crunch, but the funds' overall values have plunged amid sharp falls in stock market indexes.

"Today, the whole world has entered into a new era, an era dominated by politicians leading the markets. This will impact the future of the markets," Saad told the conference of the International Working Group (IWG) of Sovereign Wealth Funds.

"We will see more regulated and controlled markets. We will see more nationalisations and greater protectionism. Over-regulation will lead to deficiencies in the markets. We hope this will be temporary," he said.

Founded a year ago by funds in 23 countries, the IWG has finalised a code of ethics, known as the Santiago Principles, in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund , to promote transparency.

The IWG held three meetings last year, culminating in October in Santiago, Chile, where they approved the Generally Accepted Principles and Practices (GAPP) of Sovereign Wealth Funds, also known as the Santiago Principles.

Besides reviewing developments in the global economy, the meeting is expected to announce the establishment of a forum for more coordination and cooperation among sovereign funds.

Kuwait's sovereign fund has lost $31bn of its estimated $300bn as a result of the global economic crisis, a lawmaker said in February.

Other funds have had even greater losses.

Norway's state pension fund, one of the world's largest sovereign funds, lost $90.5bn last year on the value of its holdings, according to the country's central bank.

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