News in brief and RI’s Friday fund launches

RI’s round up of new sustainable fund products.

Women hold more than one in ten board seats globally for the first time, according to a report by GMI ratings. It said 10.5% of the directors in its coverage universe are now women, up 0.7% from last year. The percentage of companies with no female directors has also fallen below 40% for the first time, to 39.8%, down 2% since last year.

The UK communications regulator, Ofcom, has reportedly escalated a probe into whether British Sky Broadcasting is a “fit and proper” owner of a broadcasting licence, following the hacking crisis at sister company, News International. The FT reports that Ofcom has set up a dedicated team to scrutinise material emerging from the Leveson inquiry into UK press practices and police investigations into phone hacking and corrupting public officials at News International, whose Chairman, James Murdoch, stepped down at the end of February.

FTSE reports that research from Edinburgh University shows direct engagement with companies facing potential deletion from its index series by its Responsible Investment Unit doubles the rate of improvement on ESG issues.
The analysis covers more than 1000 companies based on FTSE4Good criteria. he latest index review has just been published and includes new countering bribery criteria to be applied to over 1200 companies.

Allianz Global Investors France reports that the companies selected in its €900m SRI equity fund, Sicav Actions ISR Allianz Valeurs Durables, raised employee levels above their benchmark peers and emitted less CO2. It said its portfolio companies took on 4.26% more employees in 2010 against a 1.89% average for the companies of the Eurostoxx 50 and 1.33% for the MSCI EMU index. The same companies also had a lower relative C02 emission than the Eurostoxx 50 companies.

Greece has reportedly reached an out of court settlement with Siemens for €170m over alleged bribery of local politicians and state officials by the German industrial, healthcare and energy company. The settlement still has to be approved by the Greek parliament. The Greek claim focused on bribes allegedly paid by Siemens Hellas, its Greek subsidiary, on contracts awarded by Hellenic Telecom, the state-controlled operator, between 1997 and 2002. In 2008 paid €1bn in fines to German and US authorities over bribes.

London-based Truestone Impact Investment Management, which focuses on delivering market rate returns from social and environmental investments, has made an undisclosed allocation to EmVest Asset Management, a Sub-Saharan African agriculture investor.
EmVest manages the Emergent African Land Fund, a private equity fund focusing on the agricultural sector, with projects in Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.Triodos Investment Management is to be co-investment manager for Isis Fund, an equity microfinance fund launched by Women’s World Banking with the aim to increase access to finance for women around the world. More than $30m was committed in the first closing of the fund by an international group of reputed institutional investors. A second closing bringing the fund to at least USD 60 million is targeted for the end of the year.

NEFCO, the international financial institution established by the five Nordic countries for environmental investment in Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus plans to establish new fund for environmental technology. The organization is studying a new pilot fund aimed at financing Nordic environmental innovations through working with third party anchor investors and fund operators in the clean tech and venture capital sectors.

The Co-operative Group has set aside a £1m pot to support community-owned renewable energy projects in the UK such as local hydro power installations.

CDC, UK’s development finance institution, has made two new investments worth $40m. The first is a $30m commitment to the Africa Capitalization Fund (ACF) investing in commercial banks across the continent. The second is a US$10m investment in the Progression Eastern African Microfinance Equity Fund, its first investment in a specialist African microfinance fund.

Triodos Bank has launched the first ethical Junior Cash ISA. Alquity Investment Management has launched an Africa Junior ISA with 100 % of profits to fund microfinance in Africa.

Sustainable Development Capital plans to raise more than $500 million to invest over the next two to three years in specialist funds and companies involved in environmental projects in Asia, its chief executive told Reuters. The firm will fund projects dealing with water treatment, sustainable land management and low-carbon transport systems.

Corporate Knights, the Canadian magazine has unveiled its 2012 Responsible Investing Survey ranking SRI mutual funds on their the social, environmental, and financial values. The leading funds were Meritas International Equity Fund, with a score of 75%, along with Acuity Social Values Canadian Equity Fund, which ranked just below at 74%.

The first microfinance wholesale fund has been launched in China. Inclusive Finance Wholesale Fund I has been initiated by organizations including the China Association of Microfinance (CAM). The fund plans to mobilize RMB 30 million and CreditEase Microcredit Investment has provided RMB 5 million as seed capital.