Norway state pension fund says it blacklists Israeli company

6th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

Israeli group Elbit was accused of providing a surveillance system for the separation wall in the West Bank, which the International Court of Justice ruled illegal in 2004.

Oslo -- Norway's state pension fund, one of the world's biggest investors, banned an Israeli company from its portfolio last week for ethical reasons but reinstated France's Thales and South Africa's DRD Gold.

Israeli group Elbit was accused of providing a surveillance system for the separation wall in the West Bank, which the International Court of Justice ruled illegal in 2004.

"We do not wish to fund companies that so directly contribute to violations of international humanitarian law," Norwegian Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen said in a statement.

On the advice of the fund's ethical council, the government asked the central bank, which manages the pension fund, to divest its shares in the company by August 31. The value of the holding was not disclosed.

Israel's ambassador to Norway was informed of the decision during a meeting Thursday at the foreign ministry in Oslo, the ministry said.

The Israeli foreign ministry in turn summoned Norway's ambassador to protest the move, spokesman Ygal Palmor told AFP. "Israel will consider all its options," he added.

Norway's Government Pension Fund, more commonly referred to as the "oil fund," held stocks and bonds worth 2.38 trillion kroner (277 billion euros, 395 billion dollars) at the end of June.

It contains nearly all state revenues from the oil industry in Norway, one of the world's largest oil and gas exporters.

It was set up to help finance the country's generous welfare state system once the wells run dry.

Ethical guidelines bar the fund from investing in "particularly inhumane" weapons manufacturers and in companies known to be involved in large-scale human rights violations, corruption, or environmental pollution, as well as tobacco companies.

The government also announced on Thursday that it would allow the fund to once again invest in French electronics defence group Thales, barred in 2005 for its involvement in the production of cluster bombs, and in the South African mining group DRD Gold, banned in 2007 due to environmental pollution in Papua New Guinea.

"The Council on Ethics has found that the grounds for exclusion are no longer valid because Thales no longer has any form of involvement in the manufacture of cluster munitions in any country," the finance ministry said.

DRD Gold has meanwhile pulled out of the polluting mine.

Some 30 multinationals are on the fund's blacklist, including Boeing, Wal-Mart, EADS, Safran and BAE Systems.

The fund is the biggest single investor in Europe, holding 1.7 percent of the continent's total stock market capitalisation and 1.0 percent worldwide.

AFP/Expatica

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