Responsible Funds, May 23: Clean energy investor Leaf plans asset sell-off

The round-up of responsible funds news

Leaf Clean Energy, the London-listed environmental investor, says it will start an “orderly realisation” of its assets and return capital to shareholders following a review of its strategy and consultation with its major shareholders. Leaf is emphasising that it “will not result in the liquidation of the company in the immediate future” and that it won’t have to dispose of assets within a defined time frame. “The proposed new strategy will be implemented in such a manner that maximises the value of the company’s investments,” Leaf said. Major shareholders as at March 31 included Invesco (45.8%), Lansdowne Partners (14.25%) and Kames Capital (10.7%).

Ircantec, the €6bn French public pension fund, has signed the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). In 2013, the fund had already published a comprehensive charter setting out how it applies responsible investment based on the PRI and the UN Global Compact, which included a rare move for a French institution into a developed corporate governance and share voting strategy. The fund – the “Institution de retraite complémentaire des agents non titulaires de l’État et des collectivités publiques” (supplementary pension institution of non-permanent staff of the state and public authorities) – is housed within France’s Caisse des Dépôts, the French quasi treasury fund, and takes in pension contributions from almost 3m workers. In 2012, Ircantec awarded 10 environmental, social and governance (ESG) mandates to seven asset management firms.

The €40.6m Vontobel Clean Technology Fund has returned 2.1% in the year to the end of April, according to a fund factsheet. The fund, which invests in companies offering technologies and innovative solutions to mitigate climate change and reduce air and water pollution, is benchmarked against the MSCI World Index TR net EUR, which has returned 1.7% over the same period.Hunter Hall, the Australian-listed ethical fund manager, says it is amending the investment guidelines of its ethically screened Global Deep Green Trust to allow investment in Japanese stocks following a decision by the International Court of Justice on Japanese whaling. The ICJ ruled that Japan’s whaling in the Antarctic is not carried out for scientific purposes and must cease, with Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying it would abide by the ruling. The Global Deep Green Trust returned 32.4% for the year to March 31.

The £95.7m (€118.3m) RobecoSAM Smart Materials GBP fund has returned 9.68% in the year to the end of April – against a benchmark (MSCI World ND) return of 7.49%. The Luxembourg-domiciled fund invests worldwide in companies which provide technology, products or services relating to the extraction and efficient handling of raw materials, recycling of used resources and innovative alternative materials.

A new SRI fund has been launched in the UK. The Isle of Man-domiciled Socially Responsible Investment Fund is being offered by fund firm the Premier Group for retail investors. It’s structured as a fund of alternative investment funds, with a strategy to invest in funds with holdings in clean energy, resource recovery & recycling, sustainable food production and clean water provision.

Banking groups RBC, RBS and Santander have agreed to finance a £100m debt acquisition facility to Foresight Solar Fund, the Jersey-registered investment company focused on UK solar power assets. The cash will be used to fund future operational UK solar power plant acquisitions. Foresight, which raised £150m in an initial public offering in October 2013, also said it has signed a contract to buy the 37.3MW Bournemouth plant, taking its total committed assets to 185MW.