It's a billionaire oil sheikh's world. We just live in it.
Those pesky Tier 1 capital requirements are forcing Bank of America to offload its stake in China Construction Bank, according to Reuters. The likely buyers could very well be a few massive sovereign wealth funds from the Persian Gulf.
While the rest of the world spirals into a debt-filled economic abyss, ultra-wealthy Gulf states like Qatar and Kuwait are propped up by the high prices of crude oil and natural gas. The result: a kid-in-the-candy-store scenario for the sovereign wealth funds run by their ruling families. They've been cherry-picking the most lucrative investments at fire-sale prices.
The six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council -- Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates -- are ruled by centuries-old desert monarchies that maintain tight control of their natural resources. It only takes the price of crude oil to notch up a few dollars for the collective wealth of the GCC's ruling families to rise by billions.
For instance, one of the main sovereign wealth funds of the family of Abu Dhabi's ruler, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan, has long been rumored to be worth more than $1 trillion -- give or take a few hundred billion dollars depending on the price of crude. With vast wealth residing in these Gulf-based investment funds, it's no wonder that cash-strapped Western banks like Bank of America are shopping their holdings in search of quick bucks.
Bank of America's 10 percent stake in China Construction is valued around $17 billion. Analysts say BofA needs some $50 billion to meet new, more stringent post-economic crisis capital requirements.
The Kuwait Investment Authority and the Qatar Investment Authority -- each holding hundreds of billions of dollars -- could easily snatch up BofA's stake in the Chinese bank. The royal families in the Gulf routinely appoint family members to lead their investment funds. In recent years, Gulf sheikhs have been scouring the Pacific Rim countries for new investments after satisfying their desire to own Premier League soccer teams in England and glitzy hotels in London and New York, among other high-profile Western investments.
In one sign of the trend, the U.A.E.'s Emirates Airlines began scheduling daily flights last year between Dubai and Hong Kong using its new fleet of super-jumbo Airbus A380 jets, which include bathrooms with showers for first-class passengers.