Norway's state fund 'needs to ditch oil and gas investments'

An unidentified oil worker walks in front of a natural gas flame burning off in the Persian Gulf desert oil field of Sakhir  Bahrain.       AP  Hasan Jamali

The proposal to sell oil and gas stocks must be approved by the government.

"Therefore, it is the bank's assessment that the government's wealth can be made less vulnerable to a permanent drop in oil prices if the GPFG [sovereign wealth fund] is not invested in oil and gas stocks".

Oil and gas equities now account for around 6% of the Government Pension Fund Global's benchmark index, or just more than 300 billion Norwegian kroner ($36.49 billion).

The wealth fund, which controls about 1.5 percent of global stocks, proposes dropping %37 billion of shares in worldwide giants such as BP, Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc. and other holdings.

"It is not surprising that we see the world's largest sovereign wealth fund managers no longer prepared to take the increasing risk associated with oil and gas assets, which do not have a long-term future", he said.

The Norwegian fund, officially known as the Government Pension Fund Global, is among the largest investors in a wide range of oil companies, including Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Chevron and Exxon Mobil.

"There is a substantial difference.in return between the oil and gas sector and the broad stock market in periods when the oil price changes substantially".

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Owning close to 1.5% of global stocks, the Norwegian fund largely follows indices, but is allowed some active management of its portfolio.

McKibben compared the bank's recommendation to "the moment when the Rockefellers divested the world's oldest oil fortune" in 2014, when the heirs to Standard Oil said that if founder John D. Rockefeller were alive in the 21st century, "he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy".

The fund also held 1.7 percent of Italy's Eni, 1.6 percent of France's Total and 0.9 percent of Sweden's Lundin Petroleum, among others.

Norges Bank manages Norway's $1 trillion (£758bn) sovereign wealth fund on behalf of the government. In 2016, Norway also withdrew cash for the first time after sinking oil prices opened up holes in the budget.

"This is the biggest pile of money on the planet, most of it derived from oil-but that hasn't blinded its owners to the realities of the world we now inhabit", said McKibben. The sector accounts for 14 percent of Norway's gross domestic product (GDP). The Finance Ministry said it will study the proposal and make a decision "in the fall of 2018" at the earliest.

"It's great to have that luxury, isn't it?"

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