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LDS Church investment fund takes another jump as faith’s estimated total wealth reaches a new high

Ensign Peak Advisors’ portfolio hits an overall value of $50.5 billion at end of 2023.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Church Office Building is shown in Salt Lake City in December 2023. The portfolio of the faith's investment arm topped $50 billion in value at the end of 2023.

Investments managed from Utah’s capital for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints jumped in value as 2023 closed, ending the year $6.1 billion higher than at the start.

New reports this week from the global faith’s investment arm, Salt Lake City-based Ensign Peak Advisors, show its portfolio of stocks, mutual funds and others investments was worth $50.5 billion, just $2 billion short of a four-year high.

That total had fallen to $46.8 billion as of the end of September amid stock sales and market fluctuations but grew in the fourth quarter by $3.7 billion, according to required disclosures to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Analysis by The Widow’s Mite website, which uses public data and sophisticated modeling to track church finances and other trends, shows that the Ensign Peak portfolio was a net seller of U.S. stocks throughout much of last year, shedding nearly $1.75 billion of its holdings.

The account represents only the Utah-based faith’s direct holdings of U.S. stocks and mutual funds. Its size has been made public via SEC reporting since late 2019 after a whistleblower alleged the Ensign Peak portfolio had reached upward of $100 billion.

All told, the church’s total wealth is now thought to have reached a new high of around $265 billion in 2023, according to The Widow’s Mite, up by almost $29 billion from the previous year.

On track to top $1 trillion

An estimated $182 billion of that is held in investments, including those managed Ensign Peak, and another $83 billion is in operating assets, such as the church’s ecclesiastical buildings, farms and holdings associated with Brigham Young University.

Real estate, including nearly 2.3 million acres in the U.S. alone, is thought to have made up about $32 billion of that $182 billion in investments in 2023, a year marked by news of several major land purchases by the church.

By Widow’s Mite’s projections, the overall church’s investment income now exceeds what it receives in annual tithing from faithful members and all other donations.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Estimates based on data from countries where tithing is reported to government authorities — Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Australia — reveal that tithing participation by Latter-day Saints appears to be declining, when adjusted for inflation and changes in membership numbers.

At the same time, the website stated, the church increased its humanitarian giving by almost twofold last year over 2022, based in part on a tally of announced aid donations totaling upward of $230 million.

Not all of those contributions are reported, of course. The church reported in March that it spent more than $1 billion worldwide helping those in need in 2022, eclipsing its 2021 spending by more than $100 million.

At current rates, The Widow’s Mite projects, the 17 million-member faith will be worth more than $1 trillion within 21 to 27 years.

Billion-dollar stakes in tech

The Ensign Peak portfolio dipped below $30 billion as markets plunged in early 2020, when the U.S. onset of the COVID-19 pandemic rocked stock markets.

It is now more than $20 billion and 69% above that low and just $1.8 billion short of its peak value of $52.3 billion, reached at the end of 2021.

Ensign Peak’s holdings generally mirror the mix of stocks in the S&P 500 index with 1,739 different investments as of the end of 2023, winnowed from 2,308 in mid-2022.

Along with shares in an array of well-known blue-chip, midcap and smaller stocks across sectors, the account includes major investments in mutual, index and sector-targeted funds; real estate investment trusts; hedge funds; and a host of foreign companies held through depository receipts.

Reports for the third quarter of 2023 show the portfolio held stakes above $2 billion in Apple and Microsoft and five above $1 billion — in Amazon, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and Facebook’s parent, Meta Platforms, as well as software giant Nvidia, and health services and insurance provider UnitedHealthcare.

At the close of 2023, Ensign Peak’s shares in Microsoft had climbed to $2.96 billion in value and shares in Apple had reached $2.87 billion, putting them both just shy of $3 billion.

Overall, Ensign Peak managers pared back during the fourth quarter of 2023 on the number of shares held in all of the portfolio’s top 10 holdings, including its big technology positions — excluding Google — and its stakes in UnitedHealthcare, Tesla, JPMorgan Chase and Mastercard.

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