Global Deflation Strikes Again – Cash Short Petro-States Pulling AUM From Big Equity Managers

By Simeon Kerr at The Financial Times

Saudi Arabia has withdrawn tens of billions of dollars from global asset managers as the oil-rich kingdom seeks to cut its widening deficit and reduce exposure to volatile equities markets amid the sustained slump in oil prices.

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency’s foreign reserves have slumped by nearly $73bn since oil prices started to decline last year as the kingdom keeps spending to sustain the economy and fund its military campaign in Yemen.

The central bank is also turning to domestic banks to finance a bond programme to offset the rapid decline in reserves.

This month, several managers were hit by a new wave of redemptions, which came on top of an initial round of withdrawals this year, people aware of the matter said.

“It was our Black Monday,” said one fund manager, referring to the large number of assets withdrawn by Saudi Arabia last week.

Institutions benefited from years of rising assets under management from oil-rich Gulf states, but are now feeling the pinch after oil prices collapsed last year.

Nigel Sillitoe, chief executive of financial services market intelligence company Insight Discovery, said fund managers estimate that Sama has pulled out $50bn-$70bn over the past six months.

“The big question is when will they come back, because managers have been really quite reliant on Sama for business in recent years,” he said.

Since the third quarter of 2014, Sama’s reserves held in foreign securities have declined by $71bn, accounting for almost all of the $72.8bn reduction in overall overseas assets.

Other industry executives estimate that Sama has withdrawn even more than $70bn from existing managers.

While some of this cash has been used to fund the deficit, these executives

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