RI ESG Briefing, August 13: Investors press ING U.S. on anti-genocide vote at AGM

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


Allianz, the Germany-based insurer, has bought two wind parks in France and one in Italy with a combined capacity of 50MW via its Allianz Capital Partners arm. The purchases include the under-construction Frevent and Ivergny projects in the Pas-de-Calais region in northern France from developer Eurowatt SCA. And it also acquired the operational Erchie facility in Italy’s Puglia region from developer Eneris. Allianz’s total investment in renewable energy has now reached €1.7bn. Announcement

Renewable Energy Company, the Norwegian solar energy firm, says it has successfully closed a $110m convertible bond offering. The issue, which matures on September 13 2018, was “oversubscribed”. The bonds are convertible into ordinary REC shares with a strike price of NOK3.60, and have quarterly coupon payments of 6.5% p.a. REC also bought back €79.05m of the existing convertible bond maturing in 2014 at par value.

Denmark’s DONG Energy has sold its 33% stake in Norwegian onshore wind company Kvalheim Kraft to Vardar Boreas, the wind energy group controlled by the Buskerud municipality in southern Norway. Vardar already held 33% of the firm which owns two operating wind farms around 300 km north of Bergen with a total installed capacity of approximately 23 MW. DONG will now focus on its offshore wind farm plans. Link


A coalition of institutional investors has written to ING in the US asking it to heed the results of an anti-genocide vote at its annual meeting last year. They said ING recently informed campaign group Investors Against Genocide (IAG) of its decision to take no action to implement genocide-free investing despite the proposal receiving 59.8% support. The investors include Boston Common Asset Management, Clean Yield, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, Mercy Investment Services, Trillium AM, Zevin AM and a range of US faith investors. A letter to ING, which is set to be rebranded as Voya Financial, states: “It has been demonstrated that most shareholders do not want their money invested in companies funding genocide.” Added IAG Chair Eric Cohen: “This year marks 10 years of the genocide in Darfur yet ING U.S. continues to invest in PetroChina, a company widely recognized as the largest business partner of the government of Sudan.” Link. Governance

Senior Democratic members of the California Senate have asked the state’s two giant pension funds, the California Public Employee Retirement System and the California State Teachers Retirement System, to halt investments in Russia over restrictions on gay rights in the country. The proposal comes from Senator Mark Leno, President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and others, Reuters reported. CalPERS, on its Facebook page, said it is a “strong defender of human and civil rights across the globe”. It went on: “CalPERS always strives to be a responsible investor as we uphold our fiduciary duty to our members and their retirement security. CalPERS will continue its prudent review of all investments and will consider current developments as it abides by all applicable laws.”

India-based governance research house InGovern Research Services has released its third report on mutual funds’ voting. It has analysed the proxy voting patterns of Indian mutual funds and found they are “still largely passive and/or indifferent while voting at investee company shareholder meetings”. And there were no significant improvements in voting participation compared to previous two years. The report is called Mutual Funds Voting Pattern 2013 Analysis.

The Financial Reporting Council, the UK watchdog, says it is willing to consider amendments to the Corporate Governance Code to help encourage “enhanced shareholder engagement” with companies on audit issues. It was responding to the Competition Commission’s recent proposals on the audit market but warned that the proposed five yearly audit tendering could result in a “sham process”.

Switzerland’s Hansa Aktiengesellschaft has agreed to buy UK activist fund management firm SVG Investment Managers (SVGIM) from parent SVG Capital. Hansa Chairman Georg von Opel said its vision was for a manager “with a focus on unconstrained investment in high-quality public companies and constructive corporate engagement”. Financial terms for the deal were not disclosed.

A lawsuit filed by New York’s Cement & Concrete Workers District Council Pension Fund accusing computer firm Hewlett-Packard Co and its ex-CEO Mark Hurd of a lack of ethics over alleged sexual harassment has been dismissed, according to reports. US District Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco ruled HP did not violate securities laws, Reuters reported, meaning the fund won’t be able to pursue fraud claims over Hurd’s alleged violations of HP’s code of conduct.