NORWAY - The Ministry of Finance is seeking to establish a framework agreement relating to research of companies included in the investment portfolio of the Government Pension Fund - Global.

In a tender notice, which has been issued on behalf of the Council of Ethics of the pension fund, the Norwegian government revealed suppliers might be required to "execute desk studies" on specific matters of interest relating to companies that "may have activities in conflict with the fund's ethical guidelines".

The ministry of finance said these "specific matters" could include research on company and joint venture structures, and information gathering "related to incidents involving human rights violations, environmental damage or corruption in different countries, business sectors and industries".

It pointed out these desk studies would not include on-site or field research, but acknowledged "there will be an option for the service provider to conduct in-depth studies related to the above mentioned topics, upon special request" by the Council of Ethics.

In addition to the company research and information gathering, the successful provider is also expected to have:

Excellent language skills in English, Spanish and Mandarin, and knowledge of additional languages would be a competitive advantage; Knowledge of emerging markets and business sectors/industries represented in the pension fund - such as basic materials, industrials, oil and gas, consumer goods/services; Knowledge in the five specialised fields covered by the funds' ethical guidelines; And desk studies should result in a written report in English or Norwegian, including sources of information.

The search for suppliers of more in-depth research of companies held by the Government Pension Fund - Global follows two earlier tender notices on behalf of the Council of Ethics for providers of ethical screening for the 8,000 firms in which the fund is invested, and a separate mandate for screening of its 2,300 Asian holdings. (See earlier IPE article: Norway retenders ethical screening contracts)

The contract, valued at around NOK 1.5m (€172,000) is for an initial period of two years - with the option of two further one-year extensions - and the closing date for submissions is 19 March 2009, although more information can be obtained from the Doffin website.

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