Denmark’s biggest commercial pension provider PFA has sold all its shares in Ryanair in the wake of the Irish airline’s high-profile dispute with Danish trade unions, even though it held onto the investments longer than some other Danish schemes.

Henrik Nøhr Poulsen, CIO for equities and alternatives at PFA’s investment arm PFA Asset Management, told IPE: “I can confirm we have divested our shares in Ryanair over the last month.”

The total holding was worth between DKK15m (€2m) and DKK20m, he said.

“This was a very small decision for us, given that we are a pension fund with DKK400bn under management,” Nøhr Poulsen said.

Ryanair became embroiled in a heated dispute with trade unions in Denmark last summer that spilled over into airport protests and social media clashes between the company and Copenhagen mayor Frank Jensen.

At the heart of it was Ryanair’s insistence on employing Denmark-based staff on Irish work contracts, which denied them the same rights as other Danish workers.

Last month, Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary claimed at a Copenhagen press conference to launch the airline’s new flight programme that the negative publicity had been good for Ryanair because it made people more aware of the company, according to Danish media reports.

Last year, ATP, Industriens Pension and PensionDanmark sold their investments in Ryanair amid the controversy.

Nøhr Poulsen said PFA viewed Ryanair as a special case within its investment policy.

“For an extended period of time, we’ve been worried about the debate about labour relations and trade union rights, and we’ve also been concerned about how the company acts and behaves when it enters a new market,” he said.

Generally, he said, PFA wants to see the businesses in which it invests as being robust and sustainable, as well as able to adapt to local markets.

“After a long evaluation, we came to the conclusion Ryanair was unable to adapt to local standards, and we decided we therefore did not want to be involved,” Nøhr Poulsen said.

He said PFA saw responsible investing as an integrated part of its investment process and as an extended risk analysis of the stocks in which it invests.