Norges Bank sets up 4,000-company ESG database

New resource for portfolio managers and analysts

Norges Bank Investment Management, the arm of the Norwegian central bank which manages the NOK3trn (€390bn) Government Pension Fund, has set up an environmental, social and governance (ESG) database of around 4,000 of its largest investee companies.

The database has information from internal and external sources. Although it is maintained by NBIM’s ownership team, it can be used all areas of the organisation including “in particular” the fund’s portfolio managers and investment analysts.

“The aim is to provide easily accessible information that can be used in the fund’s investment decisions,” NBIM said in its third-quarter report today. At the end of the quarter, NBIM had shares in 8,026 listed companies – down from 8,389 three months earlier.

The investor also disclosed that it and 14 other institutional investors filed suit against Countrywide Financial Corporation, three of its former directors and its auditor KPMG in a US Federal court during the quarter.The suit claimed that Countrywide, formerly the largest US mortgage lender, concealed irresponsible lending practices and the extent of its credit risk.

“Norges Bank and the other investors involved in the suit have sought compensation for the losses they incurred as purchasers of Countrywide shares during this period,” it said. It added the claimants had attempted to reach a settlement with Countrywide before the suit was filed, but without success.

In another development, Norges said it has set up a subsidiary in Luxembourg as a base for its real estate investments in mainland Europe called NBIM S.à r.l. (Société à responsabilité limitée). It cited the Grand Duchy’s low taxation and well-developed tax treaty network as reasons for the move.

Overall, the fund returned -8.8%, or -NOK284bn, in the third quarter of 2011 as global stock markets tumbled. It was the second-weakest quarter in the fund’s history. Its best-performing investment in the quarter was computer firm Apple.