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RI ESG Briefing, January 15: Low Carbon Accelerator sells portfolio at “substantial discount”

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

Low Carbon Accelerator, the UK-listed clean investment vehicle, has announced it will sell its entire holdings to Sterling Planet Holdings for £2.74m (€3.3m) in cash, “at a substantial discount to book value”. The firm – whose investors numbered Derbyshire County Council and the South Yorkshire Pension Fund – will liquidate itself and cancel its listing on the AIM market. LCA, which raised £55m (€70.5m) at launch in 2006, said in April 2012 that it had appointed investment bank Cogent to advise on offloading its assets.

Research firm Mercom Capital has published its 2012 Annual and Q4 Solar Funding and M&A (mergers and acquisitions) Report, containing “insight, market trends and analysis”. The 89-page report shows that venture capital funding in the solar sector was down nearly 50% in the year, at $992m in 103 deals, compared to the $1.9bn raised in 108 deals in 2011. Link

Clean energy investment declined 11% in 2012, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. It was hit by regulatory uncertainty and policy changes in big markets such as the US, India, Spain and Italy. And lower prices of solar and wind technology also affected investment volumes. BNEF figured showed that overall global investment in 2012 was $268.7bn, down from a revised figure of $302.3bn in 2011.

Social

M&G Investments, the UK-based fund management giant with £215bn (€258.8bn) under management, has become a signatory to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), according to the PRI website. M&G, which is an autonomous business within the UK’s Prudential Group, launched the first Unit Trust in the UK in 1931 and has more than 370,000 investor clients.

The United Nations Global Compact has released for comment an ‘exposure draft’ of the Business Reference Guide on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Guide illustrates how indigenous peoples’ rights may be impacted by businesses and provides practical suggestions for action. The comment period is open until June 1.h6. Governance

Institutional Investors in Danish wind turbine maker Vestas have requested an inquiry into profit warnings the company has made. Some 105 shareholders are being represented by Deminor Recovery Services, which also wants clarification about the resignations of former Chief Financial Officer Henrik Norremark and Investor Relations Officer Peter Kruse. Deminor Managing Partner Erik Bomans has been quoted saying he believes the request would gain a majority of votes at Vestas’ annual meeting on March 21.

Australia’s A$1.7bn (€1.3bn) First Super, the industry fund for workers in the timber, pulp & paper sector, is to sell its stake in News Corp after the company controlled by media magnate Rupert Murdoch’s failed to comply with the governance standards set by the scheme. It would be instructing its fund to sell the shares “in an orderly manner” over the coming months after the defeat of proposals made at last year’s News Corp annual meeting for a more independent board.

A group of investors in AT&T has branded a new report on net neutrality by the US telecoms firm as a “worrisome failure in corporate citizenship”. The report was issued by AT&T in December in response to a proposal by shareholders concerned about the company’s current open Internet policies for wireless networks. Following AT&T’s action, the shareholders informed the SEC that their proposal requesting a report has been withdrawn. Link

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has called for a review of the city’s more than $13.5bn in pension assets for holdings of weapons manufacturers – the latest response to the Connecticut school shootings in December. Emanuel said: “If our fund managers have invested in a company that manufactures or sells assault weapons, I will ask them to remove these investments from our retirement funds.”

New York Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio has compiled a list of what he calls New York’s “Dirty Dozen” — the city’s 12 biggest corporate investors backing gun manufacturers, according to the New York Daily News. He has started a campaign to pressure them to exit companies that sell military-grade weapons and ammunition to civilians.