Industriens Pension sells Myanmar and Belarus govvies as pension funds continue human rights push

A number of Danish funds have put companies under observation or axed them

Industriens Pension has sold its Belarusian and Myanmar sovereign bond holdings as other pension funds and banks step up their focus on the two countries over human rights issues.

The €21bn Danish fund confirmed to RI that it had exited its holdings in both Myanmar and Belarus. A spokesperson told RI that it had been considering selling its Belarusian bonds for some time. 

“The regime in Belarus is generally behaving completely unacceptably, and we believe that the incident over the weekend just underlines the need for financial consequences”, they said.

Belarus was widely condemned by the international community for its kidnapping of opposition journalist Roman Protasevich from an international flight which was forced to land at Minsk airport on Sunday. 

A number of banks are also under pressure to rule out future involvement in Belarusian sovereign bond issuances. Debtwire reported that the Professional Union of Belarusians in Britain had written to four banks involved in a Belarusian bond issuance before the presidential election last June, asking them to end involvement with the bond and rule out any future facilitation.

A spokesperson for Raiffeisen Bank International told RI that the bank would not take part in any future bond issuance “if the situation does not change substantially”, and stressed that “given the events after the election, there is certainly no market for a future bond issue”. The bank defended its involvement in the June bond, which it said was “issued well before the presidential elections [which President Lukashenka is accused of rigging]. All legal and regulatory requirements were met”. 

Barclays and Societe Generale declined to comment, as did spokespersons for PIMCO and Amundi, who were reported as having taken part in the bond issuance. 

2020 accounts for Legal & General Investment Management’s ESG Emerging Markets Government Bond fund show that it held $8m in Belarusian government bonds. LGIM had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.

The news comes as Industriens’ fellow Danish funds step up their monitoring and divestments in Myanmar, after a military coup in February. 

A report (in Danish) by investigative site DanWatch named 13 Danish pension funds which had investments in companies which dealt with the military regime.

Earlier this week, occupational scheme P+ announced it had “put 11 of its portfolio stocks under close scrutiny regarding their business links to the military regime in Myanmar following the coup at the beginning of February, and may divest them”.

PKA, Sampension, PensionDanmark and Velliv all told RI that they were monitoring the situation and were prepared to divest from companies which broke sanctions or did not meet their standards, while PFA declined to comment. 

Velliv said that it “expects some divestments in the near future due to breach of our exclusion criteria”, while PKA said that it had added several companies to its observation list, and would consider divesting if they “don’t comply” with engagement.