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Large Dutch schemes not keen on investing in Saudi oil giant

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The largest Dutch pension funds are not necessarily keen to particpate in the IPO announced by the giant Saudi oil company Aramco, IPE has learned.

The state-owned company launched the IPO on 3 November but a prospectus has not yet been published. It said a price range will be announced in the next few weeks.

Both APG and PGGM, the asset managers of the €459bn civil service scheme ABP and the €238bn healthcare scheme PFZW, respectively, only said that investment in Saudi Arabia was possible in principle.

PMT, the €86bn sector scheme for metal-working and mechanical engineering, indicated that it may not invest in Aramco.

PME, the industry-wide pension fund for metal and electro-technical engineering with assets worth €50bn, said that it would not invest in the Saudi oil company, “as this would be incompatible with our policy on climate and human rights”.

Michael Vos, spokesman for APG, said the asset manager did not exclude investments in Saudi Arabia beforehand, and that it would assess any investment for return, risk, costs as well as a company’s reputation for responsible investment.

In a policy document on ESG, pension fund ABP said that, as part of its “inclusion policy”, it only targeted investment in companies that were “sustainable, operated responsibly and also delivered proper returns”.

Vos confirmed that APG had invested in Saudi government bonds in 2016 through external managers, but said it had sold its holdings in the meantime.

He declined to provide details about the reason of the divestment.

Vos added that APG had decided not to invest in corporate bonds issued by Aramco earlier this year “as, based on our four main criteria, investment was not attractive at the time”.

Carbon footprint matters

In its annual ESG report for 2018, pension fund ABP said the carbon footprint of its investments had dropped by 28% relative to 2014. It had targeted a 25% reduction in 2020.

“As a passive equity investor, we monitor which companies are being included into the FTSE. If Aramco were to be included, it could be possible that we invest in the firm,” said Maurice Wilbrink, spokesman for PGGM.

The asset manager also has a €15bn dedicated portfolio of active equity investments aimed at solutions against climate change and to provide clear water, food and care.

Despite its drive to reduce the carbon footprint of its investments, PFZW – PGGM’s main client – has not excluded investments in fossil fuel, contrary to, for example, tobacco.

Until last year, it tended to replace bad performers among the energy companies in its investment universe by frontrunners, Wilbrink explained.

However, this programme has now been completed and internal discussions were ongoing about a new policy for carbon reduction, he said.

According to Wilbrink, PFZW had reduced the carbon footprint of its equity portfolio by 40% relative to 2015. The reduction had been achieved in the sectors materials, energy and utilities, he added.

He noted that this was short of the target of 50%, and was largely due to emissions increasing faster than assumed in the models the pension fund had used at the time.

Ria van der Steen, spokeswoman for PMT, said it would not invest in Saudi government bonds for “fundamental reasons”, citing human rights and labour conditions.

She added that the sector scheme was currently formulating its strategy on investments in equity issued by government-owned companies in emerging countries.

BpfBouw, the €67bn industry-wide pension fund for the construction industry, declined to clarify its position on the issue.

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