de Ware Tijd, 14/8/2012 | By Ewout Lamé
Paramaribo – Surinamese pension funds will likely not invest in Staatsolie shares if the Surinamese oil company is privatized. Last week, labour confederation C-47 proposed that pension funds should be given an opportunity to buy shares of state-owned companies, but the funds say such investments are too risky.
“I do not think we would be interested in Staatsolie shares if they were to be offered for sale,” says Edward Gessel of power company EBS’s pension fund. John Dunker of the Surinam Airways pension fund is also skeptical, saying, “Are Staatsolie’s best days behind it? Will the shares be transferable? What are the company’s reserves? Are these tangible?” Staatsolie has a very good reputation, but that is no reason for the funds to invest. “We do not base investment decisions on emotions,” Dunker emphasizes.
“If a company is doing well, shareholders benefit, but if it is going badly, you’ve got problems,” he says. “It is not that we are not interested in Surinamese shares at all,” Gessel explains, ¨but we’d have to investigate thoroughly before purchasing them. We would rather go for bonds”.
The funds emphasize that their investments are bound by strict Central bank rules, and they believe this is good. “European pension funds got into serious problems due to risky investments,” Dunker says, adding that his fund is not suffering that much from the economic crisis.
The pension funds are barely active on the Surinamese stock exchange, as their money is mainly on deposit accounts and they invest in real estate.
Dunker of Surinam Airways is not satisfied with that situation, saying, “In the past, deposits yielded something, but this is not the case anymore with the current interest rates. Besides, foreign investments yield less now.” He explains that the airline fund would like to increase investments in Surinamese companies, but that it simply cannot judge the risks well. “There are no rating agencies in Suriname”, he explains. Also, Surinamese companies lack in transparency. “There is no accounting standard in this country. We are still waiting for regulatory legislation on this issue to be passed”, Dunker adds.