The manager of Norway’s huge sovereign wealth fund (SWF) has announced it is excluding three companies from its portfolio on the grounds of risk to individuals’ and human rights - portfolio holdings worth over €100m a year ago.

Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) said in a statement on Thursday: “Norges Bank has decided to exclude three companies from the Government Pension Fund Global [GPFG], and end observation of one company.”

The central bank subsidiary, which runs the NOK12.5tn (€1.19tn) SWF, said that based on a recommendation from the GPFG’s Council on Ethics of 10 May 2022, it was excluding the Thai oil and gas company PTT PCL and its subsidiary PTT Oil and Retail Business PCL “due to unacceptable risk that the companies contribute to serious violations of individuals’ rights in situations of war or conflict.”

It cited the conduct-based criteria in section 4 (b) of the GPFG’s “Guidelines for the Observation and Exclusion of Companies”.

The council’s published decision document made clear the two firms were being banned because of cooperations with the Myanmar military junta.

In 2021, several major European pension funds signed a joint declaration pressing companies with business in Myanmar to act because of the risk of human rights violations under the military dictatorship.

Israeli firm Cognyte Software is also being blacklisted by NBIM, in this case due to selling surveillance services to countries linked to spying on journalists and regime opponents.

NBIM said it was excluding the company “due to unacceptable risk that the company contributes to serious human rights violations”.

This blacklisting is also based on advice from the Council on Ethics, which said: “The recommendation relates to human rights abuses that may be enabled by the company’s products and services.”

Several states said to be among Cognyte’s customers had been accused of “extremely serious human rights violations, including abduction, torture and other forms of abuse targeting vulnerable groups, including sexual minorities”, the ethics panel said.

According to the GPFG’s most recent holdings data available, the SWF had NOK999m invested in PTT PCL at the end of 2021, or 0.35% of the firm’s share capital.

It had NOK79.1m invested in Cognyte Software, the data showed, or 0.87% of its equity, putting the GPFG’s overall investment at that point in both companies at NOK1.08bn.

NBIM said that before excluding a company, it had to consider whether it was better to use of other measures, including the exercise of ownership rights. “The Executive Board concludes that it is not appropriate to use other measures in these cases,” the Oslo-based manager said.

Meanwhile, the observation of Italian defence contractor Leonardo is being ended by NBIM on the view the firm is improving its anti-corruption work - also based on a decision by the Council on Ethics.

Leonardo was was placed under observation in May 2017, “based on allegations of corruption which linked the company to bribery of public officials, via intermediaries, in India, South Korea, Algeria and Panama in the period 2009 to 2014,” the panel said.

“The Council’s assessment now is that the company seems to have put in place an anti-corruption system that, in most areas, aligns with internationally recognised recommendations,” it said.

IPE has contacted PTT PCL, its subsidiary PTT Oil and Retail Business PCL and Cognyte Software for comment on the matter.

In its recently-published three-year strategy plan, NBIM said that within its future responsible investment strategy it would sharpen its expectations on climate change as well as human rights.