World's biggest sovereign wealth fund to decide on dumping oil

Offshore oil rig

By Mikael Holter Norway took a half step toward divesting oil and gas stocks in its massive $1 trillion wealth fund, approving the sale of pure exploration companies while sparing the biggest integrated producers.

"If the relationship between long-term returns in the broad equity market and oil and gas stocks persists, neither the expected return nor the market risk in the fund will be affected appreciably by whether or not the fund is invested in oil and gas stocks".

"The objective is to reduce the vulnerability of our commonwealth to a permanent oil price decline", Finance Minister Siv Jensen said, stressing the move should not be interpreted as a lack of confidence in the future of the oil sector.

Norway's Government Pension Fund Global is the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, with investments totaling $1 trillion under management.

However, environmental groups were disappointed that the Finance Ministry chose only to divest oil and gas producing companies, rather than the integrated firms that include Exxon Mobil Corp. Articles appear on euronews.com for a limited time.

"This shows that while the fund was initially built on revenue from oil and gas, the Ministry of Finance understands that the future belongs to those who transition away from fossil fuels", he said.

"We were quite surprised to see this and we certainly don't agree with their assertion", said Jon Stringham, manager of fiscal and economic policy for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

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The fund had holdings worth around $37 billion - 5.9 percent of its total equity investments - in the oil sector at the end of previous year.

The fund will no longer invest in 134 companies including Anadarko Petroleum and Chesapeake Energy. While the move has been celebrated as a big win by environmentalists, its motivations have more to do with economics than climate change.

The Norwegian fund, the biggest of its kind in the world, derives its income from the country's own oil and gas industry.

"The reason they are keeping them is because they think they might increase their renewables, which are of course a direct competitor to oil and gas", said Andrew Grant, a senior analyst at Carbon Tracker, a research organisation that warns investors about potential climate risks. She also highlighted that the decision is based on financial consideration and not climate considerations.

The government recommendation must still be approved by the country's parliament before going ahead.

Norway said the removal of upstream oil and gas assets from its fund would happen gradually, in consultation with Norges Bank. Also Swedish oil company Lundin is on the list.

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