RI ESG Briefing, Oct. 23: €30m impact investment fund launched by UK charity

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

German technology giant Siemens is in talks with potential buyers about a sale of its solar power business, which includes solar thermal equipment and photovoltaic. In a statement, Siemens said: “Due to the changed framework conditions, lower growth and strong price pressure in the solar markets, the company’s expectations for its solar energy activities have not been met.” Siemens’ solar power business employs around 680 people. In 2011, it posted a loss on sales of near €300m in 2011. Siemens said it would focus on hydro- and wind-power technology.

The £34.2bn Universities Superannuation Scheme, the UK’s second largest pension fund, has lent £100m of 25-year inflation-linked debt to utility South East Water via the private placement of an index-linked note. Link

Low Carbon Accelerator, the UK-listed clean investment vehicle, says its asset disposal process is “taking longer than anticipated”. It said: “There can be no guarantee at this time that discussions will conclude in a sale of the assets of LCA at or close to the current market capitalisation of the company.” LCA announced it would sell-off its assets earlier this year with the aid of advisory firm Cogent Partners.

Social

Nesta, the London-based charity, has announced the first closing of a new £25m (€30.7m) impact investment fund called Nesta Impact Investments, through its subsidiary Nesta Investment Management. Investments will be evaluated against Nesta’s new Standards of Evidence for Impact Investing. The new fund has more than £17.5m of commitments from UK social investment body Big Society Capital and the Omidyar Network of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

A UK-government backed report into high frequency trading has found that European Union plans to restrict it could damage market efficiency. The Foresight Project gathered evidence from 150 academics and experts. “The Project has found that some of the commonly held negative perceptions surrounding HFT are not supported by the available evidence and, indeed, that HFT may have modestly improved the functioning of markets in some respects,” said John Beddington, the UK’s chief scientific advisor and lead author.h6. Governance

European pension and investor bodies have called on the European Commission to incorporate the debate about long-term investments into its planned revision of the directive governing pension funds, the IORP (Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision). “At the moment, it feels as if the potential new IORP rules push for short-term security at the expense of long-term investment and pension adequacy,” say the groups, which include the European Association of Paritarian Institutions (AEIP), European Fund and Asset Management Association (EFAMA) and the European Federation for Retirement Provision (EFRP).

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has published a report looking at the corporate governance framework and company practices that determine the nomination and election of board members. It covers 26 jurisdictions including in-depth reviews of four: Indonesia, Korea, the Netherlands and the US. The 120-page ‘Board Member Nomination and Election’ is available here

Business groups the US Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers have asked a federal court to modify or scrap new Securities and Exchange Commission rules issued under the Dodd-Frank Act on conflict minerals. “Petitioners request that this rule be modified or set aside in whole or in part,” the groups said in a filing with a Washington appeals court, according to a Bloomberg News report.

European Union commissioners were set today (October 23) to debate proposals for mandatory quotas for company boards, according to reports. The proposals from EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding seek to make companies have to reserve 40% of seats for women.

A group of unnamed shareholders in defence giant BAE Systems has called for the resignation of chairman Dick Olver in the wake of the failed merger with rival EADS, according to a Financial Times report. The investors are calling for both Olver and Senior Independent Director Sir Peter Mason to stand down, the FT added.