IRELAND - The Commission of the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) has refuted claims that the fund invests around 3% of its assets in Zimbabwe-based companies.

In a statement, the NPRF Commission admitted the fund's investments include equity holdings in multinational companies "with a presence in dozens of countries around the world including, in some cases, Zimbabwe".

It pointed out it was "incorrect" to refer to firms such as Barclays Bank, BP and Nestlé as Zimbabwe-based because they only have a "presence" in Zimbabwe, and "many, if not most, of these companies also have operations in Ireland".

As a result, the Commission claimed the €578m figure quoted by Progressio Ireland in its research on the NPRF's investments in Zimbabwe was "incorrect" as it relied on treating the assets invested in companies with a "presence" in the African country as "having been entirely invested in Zimbabwe",

But despite the rejection of the Progressio figures, the NPRF Commission confirmed that it admitted that it is "nonetheless raising with these companies the concerns which have been expressed".

The NPRF Commission pointed out that under legislation the fund's investment mandate is to "secure the optimal financial return" for an acceptable level of risk, and argued "the mandate is not qualified by any ethical investment criteria".

However, in the statement the Commission said the fund "has gone as far as possible in accordance with its statutory investment mandate to adopt and implement a responsible investment policy and is actively pursuing a policy of engaging with companies on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues".

The comments follow political pressure from opposition party Fine Gael, which called for the pension fund to disinvest from the relevant companies and to conduct a "full ethical review" of its investment strategy in response to the research. [See earlier article: NPRF under pressure over Zimbabwe investments]

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