DENMARK - Danish pension companies PKA and PensionDanmark have defended their controversial Israel-linked investments in the face of public criticism.

Meanwhile, Danica Pension has said it may divest several of the holdings and Nordea has indicated that its engagement with the companies may have been successful.

Several Danish pension funds were revealed to have invested billions of kroner in companies doing business in the settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank in a report by Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende today, citing information from Who Profits - a Tel Aviv-based organisation opposing the settlements.

Although Israel had annexed East Jerusalem, the report said, United Nations resolutions have stated that both East Jerusalem and the West Bank are occupied territories and that it is illegal for Israel to move its population there on a permanent basis.

Danish pension funds had invested in several stocks that directly or indirectly supported the controversial settlements, the report said. These included CRH, which owns 25% of Nesher which supplies cement for houses and roads in the settlements; Cemex, which has several factories in the settlements; Veolia and Alstom, which are involved in building rail lines; Caterpillar, which supplies bulldozers and G4S, which services scanners on the separation wall.

PensionDanmark's managing director Torben Möger Pedersen said the aim of achieving a high return with limited risk was largely consistent with other social aims.

"So PensionDanmark does not want to be invested in companies which breach generally accepted norms regarding social, environmental and other behaviour. It is our opinion that the companies named here do live up to these," said Pedersen.

Similarly, pensions provider PKA said it saw no reason to exclude the companies listed. "The fact that the companies are present in a given area or country is in itself not enough to exclude it from PKA's investment universe, unless there are national/international sanctions or trade embargos against investing in that area/country," it said.

And this was not the case in the current situation, PKA added.

However, Thomas Kjærgaard, head of socially responsible investments at Danske Bank, which owns Danica Pension, said the group had been following the companies and the problem closely for some time.

"In connection with this, of course we have contacted then to talk about the situation. We can say now that several of the companies might end up being excluded," he said.

Nordea Liv & Pension said it was already taking the matter into consideration. A Nordea spokesman said there were four companies concerned, and that Nordea had had talks with them. "Two of these companies have stopped, or are about to stop their activities in this area, and we are engaging with the other two," he said.

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