What Is the Brunei Investment Agency?
The Brunei Investment Agency (BIA), founded in 1983, is a government-owned investment organization that holds and manages the country of Brunei’s general reserve fund and its external assets.
The country of Brunei–the full name is Brunei Darussalam, which in Arabic means “Abode of Peace”–is located on the northwestern edge of the island of Borneo. Brunei is an oil-rich country and a huge exporter of energy resources: oil and gas account for more than 90% of Brunei’s exports.
Hence, the funds deposited with the BIA are primarily surplus revenues from Brunei's oil exports in the form of foreign reserves, which the Brunei Investment Agency manages via a sovereign wealth fund (SWF). The Brunei Investment Agency has approximately $170 billion in assets under management (AUM), according to the U.S. State Department.
- The Brunei Investment Agency (BIA), founded in 1983, is a government-owned investment organization that holds and manages the country of Brunei’s general reserve fund.
- Brunei Investment Agency was created to control Brunei's general reserve funds, grow its external holdings, diversify its revenue base, and hedge export revenues from energy and commodity price volatility.
- The Brunei Investment Agency has approximately $170 billion in assets under management (AUM), according to the U.S. State Department.
What Are Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs)?
Understanding the Brunei Investment Agency (BIA)
The Brunei Investment Agency (BIA) functions primarily as the central bank in the country. As with most sovereign wealth funds, the Brunei Investment Agency was created to control Brunei's general reserve funds, grow its external holdings, diversify its revenue base, and hedge export revenues from energy and commodity price volatility.
Another objective of the Brunei Investment Agency’s sovereign wealth fund is to accumulate savings for future generations, as energy resources are considered depleting assets that shrink to zero over time.
Brunei’s economy is heavily dependent upon exports of crude oil and natural gas; it relies on hydrocarbon revenues for about 60% of its gross domestic product (GDP). Yet, these resources generate only a small fraction of the country’s employment, as most of the population works directly for the government.
Brunei's Government Structure and Regulatory Framework
Brunei is a monarchy. Here, the royal institution of sultans, the title of Muslim sovereigns, has been in place since the 14th century. And, since Brunei’s independence from British rule in 1984, only one sultan has reigned, His Majesty, the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
The Sultan is the head of state and absolute monarch of Brunei, wielding nearly absolute power. The Sultan serves as his own prime minister, minister of defense, foreign minister, and minister of finance. He is advised by several councils, which he appoints.
The fact that the Sultan, in his capacity as prime minister, is head of the government means that the Sultan is also the ultimate ruler of the Brunei Investment Agency. His Majesty, the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has been ranked as one of the wealthiest individuals in the world. The Sultan is the world's longest-reigning current monarch.
Because there is effectively no regulatory oversight in this small nation, there is little public information about the BIA’s governance, assets, investment strategy, or long-term objectives for the country of Brunei. Moreover, the agency is highly secretive. For example, the Brunei Ministry of Finance's website for the Brunei Investment Agency offers only its hours of operation and an email address for business inquiries.
Brunei Investment Agency's Holdings
Despite the agency's ongoing opacity, it is known that, apart from investments within Brunei, BIA’s portfolio contains diverse holdings in bonds, equities, currency, gold, and real estate; and that it has substantial investments in the United States.
In 1985, Brunei investors purchased The Dorchester, on Park Lane, in London for $85 million. In 1996, BIA formed "Dorchester Collection," a conglomerate of luxury hotels in the UK, U.S. France, and Italy whose nucleus is The Dorchester.
Brunei Investment Agency also owns The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, which the agency purchased in 1987 for $187 million. Other real estate holdings include the Grand Hyatt Singapore. In June 2018, BIA acquired 6.6% of London-listed Draper Esprit PLC, a private equity and venture capital firm, for £20 million. The agency also owns a 10% stake in Patersons Securities Limited of Australia, and Bahagia Investment Corporation of Malaysia.
BIA has also made investments in the Chinese tech company Pony.ai and the Indian meat and seafood company, Licious, both in 2021.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Owns the Brunei Investment Agency?
The government of Brunei owns the Brunei Investment Agency (BIA). It is a sovereign wealth fund. Since the government of Brunei is a monarchy and the Sultan is head of state, defense, and finance, he is technically the owner of BIA.
Where Is Brunei?
Brunei is on the island of Borneo, which is in South-East Asia. Brunei is on the northern coast of the island. It is bordered by Malaysia and the South China Sea.
What Can I Invest in Brunei?
In Brunei, you can invest in its largest economic sectors. These include oil and gas, tourism, food, manufacturing, and information-communication technology.