Paring UBS stake 'a way to redeploy capital'

In May, GIC sold about 93 million shares in UBS, or a stake of 2.4 per cent, at a loss that it declined to disclose. It retained 2.7 per cent.
In May, GIC sold about 93 million shares in UBS, or a stake of 2.4 per cent, at a loss that it declined to disclose. It retained 2.7 per cent.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC has reiterated that paring its stake in UBS earlier this year was a chance to redeploy its capital - and not an indication of its lack of faith in the Swiss private bank.

The move does not mean the fund has given up on banks and financial institutions, said group chief investment officer Jeffrey Jaensubhakij.

In May, GIC sold about 93 million shares in UBS, or a stake of 2.4 per cent, at a loss that it declined to disclose. It retained 2.7 per cent.

GIC chief executive Lim Chow Kiat said: "Recently, we did decide to reduce our stake in UBS because we find better use of capital elsewhere."

He added: "It doesn't mean the prospects of UBS are necessarily no good; that's not what we would say. We're saying that we can make better use of the capital that we have."

Dr Jaensubhakij elaborated that GIC is "always looking at the relative valuations to see which banks have the best prospects for the price at which they're getting paid" and which markets have room to grow.

As to where GIC has moved its money, Mr Lim said: "I can't quite tell you the specific assets, but if you have observed - even in the last six, 12 months - we have been able to deploy more capital... particularly in the private equity space."

The fund has made several pushes into the student housing market overseas as well.

A back-of-the-envelope calculation pegged the loss at between US$3.5 billion (S$4.8 billion) and US$4.5 billion.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2017, with the headline 'Paring UBS stake 'a way to redeploy capital''. Print Edition | Subscribe