Norway decides to remove Russian assets from $1.3 trillion wealth fund
Norway is beginning a process to remove Russian assets from its $1.3 trillion sovereign wealth fund, in a rare case where politics drives investment for the country’s savings.
The government has decided to freeze Russian holdings in the fund in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine and plans to divest them in due course, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store told reporters in Oslo on Sunday. Norges Bank Investment Management held about 25 billion crowns ($2.8 billion) at the end of the year, Finance Minister Trygve Slagsvold Vedum said.
The Oslo-based fund is the world’s largest owner of listed companies with a portfolio of around 9,000 stocks. The government made its decision despite chief executive Nicolai Tangen on Friday describing such a move as a “wrapped gift to the oligarchs” who would buy the shares.
So far, Norway has been careful to avoid being seen as using the fund as a political tool. Previous attempts to impose political goals on the institution have been criticized that its overriding objective must be the highest possible return over time.
Norway’s move comes after Russian markets collapsed last week and follows US plans with European allies to ban transactions with Moscow’s central bank and cut off various Russian lenders from the critical SWIFT financial messaging system. . Additionally, BP Plc has decided to shed its shares in oil giant Rosneft PJSC and may be forced to write down $25 billion.
The fund is now freezing its account holdings in Russia, meaning it will not buy or sell, Line Aaltvedt, a spokeswoman for the fund, said by phone. It will then develop a plan to sell outside of Russia in conjunction with the ministry, she said. No exit time was given.
Established in the 1990s to invest Norway’s oil and gas revenues overseas, the fund has followed strict ethical guidelines since 2004, including a ban on certain weapons, tobacco and most exposure to coal.
Her largest holdings in Russia at the end of 2020, the last time she disclosed her full portfolio, were in Sberbank of Russia PJSC, Gazprom PJSC and Lukoil PJSC, according to the Norges Bank Investment Management website. It will release its 2021 holdings on Thursday.
“We want to give a very clear and unequivocal answer that the type of abuse we have seen lately cannot be accepted and therefore it is natural for Norway to withdraw its investments from the Russian market,” Vedum said. Sunday.
Norway also announced that it would apply sanctions in cooperation with the European Union and close its airspace to Russian flights. It will also increase humanitarian aid related to the crisis up to 2 billion crowns.