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S.N.P.F. Chief defends offshore investments

The Chief Executive Officer of the Samoa National Provident Fund (S.N.P.F.), Pauli Prince Suhren, has defended the Fund's decision to invest offshore. 

One of the investments is $10 million tala in the Unit Trust of Fiji for which they will receive a dividend payment of $150,000 tala this Friday. 

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Pauli said this is their second investment return from the Unit Trust of Fiji in less than 12 months, totalling $400,000 tala. He said the return thus far reaffirms the benefits of having offshore investments. 

“There are much more lucrative offers overseas for us to make money because basically our job is to look for opportunities is to invest your money as the members," he said. 

“Because we are a small country, there are only so many hotels here, so many projects that we can access, but there are so many opportunities overseas. 

“There’s always an element of risk in any investment, like I said our goal is to maximise returns while minimising the risks. So we only go to the most lucrative investments that have acceptable risk for the Fund.” 

Pauli said they are trying to convince the Central Bank of Samoa (C.B.S.) to raise the percentage for offshore investment to 15 percent from the current 10 percent. 

“There’s always an element of risk, we can assure them [C.B.S.], for example one of the investments allow us to repatriate the funds within seven days in case of an emergency.

“We have an investment with Blackrock, $35 million tala, which is currently invested overseas. If we wanted to, we can call them and we can get back the money within seven days, so those are the kinds of assurances that we can assure the C.B.S. that we can get back the money immediately. 

“We have substantial amount of term deposits in our local banks to ensure we don’t have to do that unless there is a very big national emergency.”  

Other investments by the S.N.P.F. include equity investment in A.T.H., the company that owns BlueSky Samoa, and Bank South Pacific. 

Pauli said the Fund only lends money to foreign companies when there is an opportunity for the company to contribute to the development of the local economy. 

“We also lend to our local companies, but they are not as big as some of the foreign companies that want to come and do business. I know it sounds controversial to many people, but it’s actually how business works.”

Asked about the $22 million loan given by the Fund to Taumeasina as highlighted in an Samoa Observer article published in May this year, Pauli said: “We are just one part of the entire thing; the majority of the money that they used was from Lamana Group, which owns it. 

“Part of their investment was from us is in order for us to have a stake in that as well.

"So it helps us to have a stake in a very crucial infrastructure in Samoa, so that it’s not entirely foreign owned. It has some Samoan element to it, but we are not providing 100 percent of the finance, far from it, A.N.Z., Samoa Commercial Bank are providing some of it [finance] as well.” 

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