Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) has excluded three companies from its investment universe, including two Israeli firms only re-admitted in August last year.
The move to blacklist Israel’s Danya Cebus and Africa Israel Investments, previously excluded over their involvement in construction work in the West Bank, came as the Norwegian Ministry of Finance said it would also bar the nearly NOK5.1trn (€606bn) sovereign wealth fund from owning North Korean, Syrian and Iranian government debt.
The ministry said the decision to bar the two Israeli companies came after the fund’s Council of Ethics was informed that Danya Cebus – a listed subsidiary of Africa Israel Investments – was now undertaking construction work on settlements in East Jerusalem.
The Council recommended in November last year that both companies be divested once more, as there was a risk they were “contributing to serious violations of the rights of individuals in situations of war or conflict”.
The decision comes only weeks after Dutch pension manager PGGM sold its shares in five Israeli banks over their involvement in settlement activities, causing the Israeli government to summon the country’s Dutch ambassador to explain the move.
Additionally, the GPFG will also blacklist mining company Sesa Sterlite after Vedanta Resources, excluded in 2007, gained a controlling interest in the Indian firm.
The Council’s recommendation said Vedanta’s exclusion should be maintained, and that Sesa should be added to the list of barred companies over the “unacceptable risk of the company being responsible for severe environmental damage and systematic human rights violations”.
The Finance Ministry has also decided to allow the fund to invest in sovereign and government-backed bonds issued by Myanmar.
In a statement, it stressed that the oil fund was not to be viewed as an instrument of foreign policy and that it only barred sovereign bond investments in exceptional circumstances.
“The Ministry of Finance, in consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has made such an assessment and concluded that the exemption should no longer apply to Myanmar, but that North Korea, Syria and Iran should now be covered by the exemption,” it said.
As of the end of 2012, the GPFG had no fixed income exposure to any of the three newly banned countries.