Norway’s sovereign wealth fund will exit all investments in oil and gas production acting on a government recommendation in line with a more cautious approach to energy investments by the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund worth about US$1 trillion.
The move is bound to shake up the oil and gas industry as Norway’s fund has assets worth some US$37 billion in upstream investments that the government now considers too risky in light of the heightened price volatility post-2014.
“The goal is to make our collective wealth less vulnerable to a lasting fall in oil prices,” the Financial Times quoted Finance Minister Siv Jensen as saying. This suggests the companies most affected by the decision would be pure-play producers rather than Big Oil majors but even the latter’s stocks are bound to be hurt by the decision.
The decision has been about a year in the works. In 2018, the fund’s management recommended the move to make itself less vulnerable to oil and gas price shocks and won the support of several top local economists as well as academics. The portion of oil and gas stocks in its portfolio constitutes 5.8 percent of its total equities holdings at end-2018.
“The oil business will be a major and important industry in Norway for many years to come. The government’s income from the [continental] shelf basically follows the profitability of upstream companies. Therefore this is about spreading the risk,” Jensen said at the announcement of the decision.
However, as the FT notes, chances are environmentalists organizations will seize on the opportunity to step up pressure on other institutional investors in oil and gas to consider dialing back their exposure to the fossil fuel industry.
The Norwegian fund is invested in more than 9,000 companies worldwide and owns 1.4 percent of listed companies around the world and 2.4 percent of all listed companies in Europe. As at December 31, 2017, the fund held stakes in 350 oil and gas stocks around the world, including just over 2 percent in each of Shell and BP, 1.9 percent in Total, 1.4 percent in Eni, 0.9 percent in Exxon worth more than US$3 billion, and just below 1 percent in Chevron worth US$2.24 billion.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com