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Australian regulator warns pension funds over unlisted company valuations after Canva slump

Commuters arrive to the Central Business District at the morning rush hour in Sydney

By Lewis Jackson

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian pension funds need to improve how they value private equity, the sector's regulator said on Monday after a review into the sector's treatment of Canva, an Australian technology startup whose lofty valuation tumbled last year.

Sydney-headquartered software firm Canva hit a peak valuation of $40 billion in late 2021, only to be revised sharply lower to $25.5 billion last August amid a downturn in technology stocks. Major funds including Aware Super and Hostplus were investors.

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) on Monday said while most funds had "appropriate" valuation practices for Canva, "several areas required improvement", including instances where boards were not given appropriate information or were unwilling to challenge what they had been told.

The regulator also said some valuation policies needed clearer triggers for when to do an interim valuation.

"Through our supervision activities, APRA has continued to address these issues with RSE licensees since the conclusion of the review," APRA said in a release that did not name any funds.

Private assets are popular in Australia's A$2.4 trillion professional pension sector, with some funds holding almost half their assets in private markets. Since 2021, the regulator has pushed the sector to improve how it values assets that range from venture capital to office blocks.

In July, the regulator published new guidelines for the sector, which among other things, called for portfolio valuations each quarter.

(Reporting by Lewis Jackson; editing by Robert Birsel)

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