SINGAPORE -- Singapore's GIC emerged as the most active state-owned investor globally in 2020 amid unprecedented disruptions to economic activity worldwide.
This is according to Global SWF, which tracks investments made by state-owned investors, including sovereign wealth funds and public pension funds.
GIC retained its position as most active for the second consecutive year. The state-owned investor deployed $17.7 billion last year, down from $24 billion a year before. Canadian public pension fund CPP took second place, investing $15 billion.
During the year, investors were particularly keen on assets in sectors such as information technology and biotech; Global SWF observed that in terms of direct investments into technology businesses, there was a "sharp pivot away" from fintech.
On the other hand, interest in e-commerce, particularly in emerging markets such as India, was driven by retail digitalization boosted by pandemic-caused movement restrictions.
Temasek Holdings emerged as the top tech investor, plowing $2.3 billion into investments, particularly in industries such as e-commerce and health care and biotechnology.
During the year, Temasek made at least 18 investments in health care, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in the United States, China, France, Germany and Singapore.
Among the notable deals during the year was Temasek leading a $250 million private placement in German biotechnology company BioNTech, which together with pharmaceutical company Pfizer developed the first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved by authorities globally.
Temasek was also a major investor in India's Zomato, adding $62 million to the investments it had made in the online food delivery player since 2015. Zomato is said to be targeting an initial public offering this year at a $3.5 billion valuation.
More recently, in October, it emerged that Temasek was investing in Indonesian e-commerce giant Tokopedia, which is also expected to seek a public market listing.
GIC was the second-biggest direct investor in technology, deploying $2.2 billion, particularly into data centers and cloud computing services. Its most significant deal was a $1 billion joint venture with Equinix that was created to build and operate data centers in Japan.
Educational tech was also an area of interest for investors.
Both Temasek and GIC participated in the $1 billion funding round of the Chinese startup Yuanfudao. The company, which runs live tutoring platforms and online homework services for 400 million users in China, is valued at $15.5 billion, surpassing India's Byju's as the world's largest educational tech provider. GIC also led a $200 million funding round in another Chinese educational tech company, Aixuexi.
Food tech and agricultural tech were other hot investment themes, and both GIC and Temasek were especially active in these sectors. Notable deals included Temasek's $365 million investment for a majority stake in Israeli micro-irrigation company Rivulis Irrigation in September.
In its latest report documenting activity for the year to Dec. 31, Global SWF noted that sovereign wealth funds and public pension funds ended 2020 with record assets under management, at $9.1 trillion and $18.4 trillion.
However, even as the number of deals done held steady in 2020, at 503 compared to 499 the year before, the value of those investments was nearly 19% lower, at $162.3 billion.
This was due to the lower investments by sovereign wealth funds, which fell 33% to $83.7 billion across 280 transactions.
Still, Global SWF noted that during the crisis, investors such as Temasek, or so-called development funds, have been able to react quickly and acquire strategic assets.
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