Worlds biggest sovereign wealth fund excludes Sesa Sterlite on ethical grounds

Written by Reuters | Oslo | Updated: Jan 31 2014, 18:52pm hrs
Norway's finance ministry has told its $810 billion oil fund, the world's biggest sovereign wealth fund, to stop investing in two Israeli firms and one Indian firm on ethical grounds.

The ministry instructed the fund for a second time to exclude Africa Israel Investments and its construction subsidiary Danya Cebus from its investments and also said it should not invest in Sesa Sterlite, India's biggest zinc and aluminium maker.

After the decision, 63 firms stand on the exclusion list, including some of the world's biggest miners, tobacco prod-ucers and makers of weapons such as cluster bombs. Separately, the finance ministry said it would now allow the fund to buy sovereign bonds issued by Myanmar, after the lifting of international sanctions on the Asian country.

Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus were first excluded from the fund in 2010 because they were involved in the building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank but the ban was lifted last August. The government reinstated the exclusion "due to contribution to serious violations of individual rights in war or conflict through the construction of settlements in East Jeru-salem", it said in a statement.

Sesa Sterlite, a subsidiary of mining conglomerate Vedanta Resources, was excluded as Vedanta's "relevant operations in India, which are run through the company Sesa Sterlite, present an unacceptable risk of environmental damage and serious violations of human rights".

Vedanta was itself excluded from the fund's investment portfolio in 2007. "The fund runs an unacceptable risk of contributing to severe environmental damages and serious or systematic violations of human rights by continuing to invest in the company," the ministry said when it excluded Vedanta.