China's sovereign wealth fund seeking talent

China Investment Corp. to begin new round of global hiring as it eyes new investments.

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) -- China Investment Corp (CIC), the country's $200 billion sovereign wealth fund, said it will start a new round of global hiring to support an expansion of its operations as it seeks new overseas investments.

CIC, which currently employs about 200 people, will seek professional staff in 33 categories, including risk management, real estate, infrastructure, commodities and hedge fund investment, according to its Web site. (www.china-inv.cn)

"We are a new company, so it's natural for us to hire more people to grow," a CIC spokeswoman said. She declined to indicate the exact number of people CIC plans to hire.

CIC, which became wary of overseas expansion after loss-making investments in Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500) and Blackstone (BX), has recently shown renewed interest in overseas markets as the global financial crisis eases.

This week, it committed to invest $159 million in Australian property firm Goodman Group.

CIC added $2.2 billion to its previous $5.6 billion investment in Morgan Stanley earlier this month and plans to open an office in London. The fund is also looking at five or six distressed asset deals in both Asia and the West, people familiar with CIC's plans have told Reuters.

"We think this (new hiring) means CIC is ready to resume postponed investment activities overseas," said Michael McCormack, executive director of Shanghai-based fund consultancy Z-Ben Advisors.

"It's also likely to begin to take a more proactive approach in investment areas where it has not yet made much progress, such as private equity."

In the private equity department, CIC is hiring people who will be responsible for investment in real estate, infrastructure projects, credit-related products and private equity projects, according to the Web site.

CIC is also hiring for 12 other departments including relative-return investment, asset allocation research, strategy investment and risk management.

Good timing

Set up in 2007 to manage part of China's almost $2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, CIC is seeking talent at a time when Wall Street banks such as Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) and Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) are scaling back their businesses and firing staff.

"It's good timing. Many overseas Chinese talents are returning home," said Pearl Li, senior consultant at headhunting firm Hudson Highland Group Inc. "Job opportunities at CIC are really, really attractive, given CIC's unusual status as a sovereign wealth fund."

The new hiring also follows CIC's internal restructuring earlier this year that created four departments specializing in areas such as private equity and strategy investment.

CIC Chairman Lou Jiwei said in March that the fund booked "small losses" in its overseas investments in 2008 by reducing stock exposure and increasing cash positions, and had outperformed other sovereign funds.

CIC made about $10 billion in profit last year, realizing an overall return ratio of 5%, a person familiar with the performance has told Reuters. Now, with global markets rebounding on optimism that the worst part of the recession might be over, CIC may adopt a more aggressive strategy to improve returns, some analysts said.

"The new wave of hiring reflects CIC's increased willingness to invest," McCormack said.  To top of page

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