Norway sovereign wealth fund to dump oil and gas

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Environmental activists are spinning this as a victory in their war against fossil fuels.

But the divestment will focus on companies which trade exclusively in exploration and production like Marathon and Chesapeake Energy rather than the integrated oil giants.

Integrated stocks, like Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A), will not be sold.

The fund owns shares in Canadian companies such as Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Cenovus Energy Inc., Encana Corp. and several small- to medium-size producers. BP PLC and Canada's Suncor Energy Inc. "This assessment is thus independent of the government's current petroleum policy, which remains unchanged", the government said.

'It will take time to divest from those companies and in the end it could be a different list, a ministry spokeswoman said.

The proposal was first revealed two years ago when Norges Bank, the country's central bank which manages the fund, advised the Government to exclude the oil and gas sector from the benchmark index for the fund.

This is fairly sensible and obvious if you think about it, Norway instead of immediately spending all its vast income from its oil and gas production and living high on the hog, has been eminently sensible and invested a significant part of it for future generations. So reinvesting those proceeds in other sectors is considered a way to keep the money safe should oil and gas prices fall.

"The objective is to reduce the vulnerability of our common wealth to a permanent oil price decline", the Finance Ministry said, announcing the decision on Friday.

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Tax receipts from oil production have made Norway rich.

The decision "does not reflect any specific view on the oil price, future profitability or sustainability of the petroleum sector".

"The decision should be seen as a red flag for private banks and investors whose oil and gas stocks are becoming increasingly high-risk and morally untenable", he said in a statement.

The selloff of stakes in the Canadian companies is not expected to have a great impact on the market which is already buffeted by issues related to pipeline export capacity and a shortage of capital, said analyst Phil Skolnick of Eight Capital. The fund will eventually sell its investments in 150 oil exploration and production companies, which amounts to only 1.2 percent of its holdings.

The review suggests the fund could become more proactive in engaging with those oil and gas giants that are pivoting investments towards renewables and other low-carbon activities.

"They have been reducing the curtailment volumes, so nothing has changed, and to me it seems to be on track and positive", McKay said.

It'll still invest in large, integrated oil companies like BP and Exxon Mobil. It owns 2.3 per cent of London-based BP. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down $1.85, or 3.4 percent, at $54.82.

The fund is the biggest of its kind in the world, holding more than 9,000 stocks across 73 countries.

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