Norway’s sovereign wealth fund has divested one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies over allegations of corruption and bribery.
The NOK7.1trn (€742bn) Government Pension Fund Global’s Council on Ethics last year investigated ZTE Corporation, listed on the Shenzhen and Hong Kong stock exchanges, over concerns it was responsible for gross corruption, as defined by the fund’s own exclusion guidelines.
In a statement, the fund’s manager, Norges Bank Investment Management, said its executive committee felt it was inappropriate to exercise its ownership rights to bring about change and instead opted to divest its stake worth NOK85m, accounting for just 0.15% in voting rights.
The Council’s report from June last year noted the company had been sent a draft version of its report but had not commented in the findings, which listed allegations of corruption in 18 countries.
The report adds: “All corruption allegations against ZTE of which the Council is aware relate to the payment of bribes to public officials to secure the award of contracts.
“In 2012, ZTE’s representative in Algeria was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for corruption in connection with a contract won by ZTE in the country.”
The report points out that, following the sentencing of the representative in Algeria, the company was barred from bidding for public contracts for two years.
It also cites allegations of corruption in Zambia, Kenya, the Philippines, Myanmar, Nigeria and Liberia, and claims “large” commission payments were passed to the prime minister of Papua New Guinea.
The decision to exclude ZTE from the sovereign fund’s investment universe comes only a month after it decided to remove Alstom from its observation list after previous concerns over corruption.