GLOBAL - Camden local authority pension scheme is to review its holdings into BSkyB as the UK government seeks advice from UK broadcasting regulator Ofcom over the broadcaster's planned takeover by News Corporation.
Theo Blackwell, the local authority's cabinet member for finance, told IPE the decision to instruct external managers Legal & General to review its £300,000 (€340,299) shareholding had been "not so much ethical as financial".
He said the proposed takeover looked like "a story without end", with increasing calls for News Corporation's bid for 61% of BSkyB to be passed to the Competition Commission. News Corporation already owns the other 39% of the company.
"The story is changing day by day - and in a bad way," said Blackwell. "We're in a different place with this company than we were two weeks ago. We need to look at the medium and long term, and in the medium term there is uncertainty around this company.
"It isn't a huge shareholding, but we're asking whether we and other pension schemes should be holding this company - or whether there are better companies we could be investing in."
In addition to directly held shares, the £877m scheme holds around £1.5m in BSkyB via pooled funds.
Meanwhile, the Church of England has written to News Corporation demanding that its board take "all necessary measures" to restore shareholders' faith in its ethical and governance standards.
The demand comes after chairman Rupert Murdoch closed UK tabloid newspaper News of the World following allegations it had hacked into the phones of a murdered child and bereaved military families.
Describing the newspaper's conduct as "utterly reprehensible and unethical", the Church Commissioners, who oversee the Church of England's pension scheme and other investments, said folding the newspaper was "not a sufficient response" to the allegations.
It demanded that senior executives be held to account.
The Church of England holds shares worth $6m (€4.26m) in the company - a relatively small holding in a £8bn portfolio.
Church Commissioners communications head Peter Crumpler said disinvestment would be a last resort.
"We would wish to use our shareholding to influence the behaviour of News Corporation," he said. "Once you disinvest, you can't influence the company."
It is unclear whether other pension schemes and institutional investors will support the Church Commissioners' stance when they went public with their criticisms of the firm.
Channel Islands-based Ogier Employee Benefit Trustee - according to the most recent annual report, the only pension-related top 20 investor in News Corporation - was not taking press calls today.