Norway wealth fund cannot hold ConocoPhillips after added to excluded list

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OSLO (Reuters) – Norway’s wealth fund will no longer be able to invest in ConocoPhillips and Hess after a list used to decide which energy firms must be excluded was updated to include both U.S. oil companies from later this month.

FILE PHOTO: Flags fly outside ConocoPhillips offices in Houston, Texas, U.S., April 30, 2019. REUTERS/Loren Elliott/File Photo

As part of Norway’s efforts to shift its $1 trillion “rainy day” fund away from oil, the country’s parliament on Wednesday adopted a plan to drop all dedicated oil and gas explorers and producers, as defined by stock market indices provider FTSE Russell, from the fund’s benchmark index.

graphic: tmsnrt.rs/2tskfub

ConocoPhillips and Hess were both added to the list of those classified as “exploration and production” this month, FTSE Russell said, with the change coming into effect on June 24.

Norway’s wealth fund data shows it held a stake in ConocoPhillips of 1%, worth $714 million, at end-2018, as well as $64 million worth of corporate bonds issued by the oil major, which was not immediately available for comment.

Selling out of this would mark the first divestment from one of the world’s oil majors by the fund, which can still invest in those that have refineries and other downstream activities, so-called integrated companies such as Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil.

Norway pools its revenues from oil and gas production into the sovereign wealth fund, which declined to say on Thursday what its stakes in ConocoPhillips and Hess were now worth or whether it had already sold them.

“We don’t comment on single companies,” said a spokesman for the fund, which has previously said any divestments would take place gradually and over time. The finance ministry said the fund’s exclusions would track FTSE Russell’s classification.

The fund’s stake in Hess, which was not immediately available for comment, was 0.85% and worth $102 million at the end of 2018, when it also held $40 million of its bonds.

Norway’s central bank, which manages the fund, called in 2017 for the removal of all oil and gas stocks from its benchmark index to reduce its exposure to the risk of a permanent drop in oil prices.

This proposal, which would have affected some 6% of the fund’s holdings, worth around $37 billion, was rejected by the Norwegian finance ministry which instead put forward the plan adopted this week by lawmakers and affects just 1.2% of the fund’s overall equity holdings.

ConocoPhillips continues to produce oil from Norway’s Ekofisk field, which Phillips Petroleum discovered in 1969 and was the first oil discovery made off the Norwegian coast, kickstarting what has become the Nordic country’s top industry.

Hess sold its own Norwegian offshore assets to Aker BP in 2017.

Editing by Alexander Smith

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