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Malaysia’s SWF explains why it didn’t back Grab


The sovereign wealth fund of Malaysia, Khazanah Nasional, has defended its choice not to participate in Southeast Asia’s super app for food delivery and ride-hailing, Grab, right away.

The fund’s investment approach, according to chief investment officer Azmil Zahruddin, is to concentrate on substantial investments rather than direct startup deals. Khazanah was unable to finalise a deal quickly to finance Grab, which was created in Malaysia.

Grab later attracted additional investors, including Singapore’s state-owned investor Temasek, and the ride-hailing behemoth moved its headquarters there. Grab became the largest listing by a Southeast Asian firm in the United States after raising $4.5 billion and launching on Nasdaq in late 2021 through a SPAC merger with Altimeter Growth Corp.

Khazanah received no small criticism for what some termed a “missed opportunity” for Malaysia. “You have to look at what Khazanah is and what its DNA is,” Zahruddin said in an exclusive interview with CNBC.

“Our DNA is that we manage large investments. [Venture capital] investing is not really what we do, and it’s not really our expertise and skill set.”

According to him, Khazanah would continue to support Malaysian startups by indirectly investing in funders that own shares in them and then possibly investing directly in them after they have grown to a level that satisfies the fund’s investment requirements.

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