The sovereign wealth fund of Azerbaijan plans to invest up to $1.8bn in renminbi this year, in what would be one of the largest investments in the Chinese currency to be made public as it rapidly moves towards reserve currency status.
Shahmar Movsumov, the chief executive of Sofaz, the $37bn State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan, told the Financial Times the fund was applying for permission from Chinese regulators to access renminbi assets and hoped to start investing by the end of the year.
“It’s one of the currencies that are becoming important, so why not invest?” he said. “We are in the process of getting all the necessary preparations.”
The move highlights the internationalisation of the renminbi as Beijing opens up greater access to the currency. The renminbi was the seventh most widely used currency for international payments in April with 1.4 per cent of transfers, compared with 0.6 per cent in January 2013.
Central banks and sovereign wealth funds hold $11.7tn in assets, according to International Monetary Fund data. But the large majority of declared holdings are in dollars and euros, and Standard Chartered estimates that they hold just Rmb300bn ($48bn), less than 0.5 per cent of total reserves.
Analysts assume that many central banks have bought small quantities of renminbi, but only a handful – including Australia, Chile and Nigeria – have confirmed such moves.
The Reserve Bank of Australia plans to put 5 per cent of its reserves in renminbi bonds, and Nigeria’s central bank holds about 10 per cent of its assets in the currency. Central banks in Japan and Malaysia also hold renminbi assets.
Sofaz had decided at the end of last year to increase its exposure to currencies other than the dollar, euro and pound from 5 to 10 per cent, Mr Movsumov said. The fund had yet to invest its allocation to “other currencies”, he said. “Whatever we have spare by the end of this year we will allocate to renminbi.”
Asked which renminbi assets he intended to invest in, he said the fund was “open to everything”.
Sofaz, the 28th-largest SWF, has grown rapidly thanks to rising oil prices in the past decade. Kazakhstan’s oil fund has assets of $71bn while the Russian equivalent holds $87bn.
Since 2012 Sofaz has moved into real estate, buying properties in London, Paris, Moscow and Seoul, and has started investing in public and private equity and gold.
SWFs are among the biggest investors in China’s public markets. Norway’s oil fund, the Kuwait Investment Authority and Singapore’s Temasek hold the largest quotas, which allow them to buy renminbi-denominated assets.
Qatar and Abu Dhabi also have sizeable quotas, while some funds have also mandated local managers to invest in renminbi debt.
“There is no reward for taking a long-term position in bonds today,” said Mr Movsumov.
Additional reporting by Josh Noble in Hong Kong
阿塞拜疆370亿美元的国家石油基金（State Oil Fund，简称Sofaz）的首席执行官沙玛?莫夫苏莫夫(Shahmar Movsumov)告诉英国《金融时报》，该基金正向中国监管机构申请买入人民币资产的许可，希望最迟在今年底开始投资。
澳大利亚储备银行(Reserve Bank of Australia)计划将储备的5%投入人民币债券，尼日利亚央行所持资产中大约10%为人民币资产。日本和马来西亚央行亦持有人民币资产。
主权财富基金跻身于中国公开市场的最大投资者之列。挪威的石油基金、科威特投资局(Kuwait Investment Authority)以及新加坡的淡马锡(Temasek)持有最大的人民币计价资产投资配额。