Leading Nordic responsible investors Storebrand and Skagen combine

No change to fund house SKAGEN’s investment philosophy and process in takeover

Two leading Nordic responsible investors have today combined with Norway’s Storebrand acquiring funds house SKAGEN in a transaction initially valued at NOK1.6bn (€170m).

Under the deal, SKAGEN — known as a contrarian manager — will continue as a separate company and independent fund manager. It will report to its own board chaired by Odd Arild Grefstad, CEO of Storebrand. There will be no change to SKAGEN’s investment philosophy and process.

Grefstad called the deal an “important building block” for its growth strategy.

Client relationships will remain with SKAGEN and its CEO Øyvind Schanke, who joined earlier this year from the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, said the deal would allow it to “deliver an even better proposition and service” to clients.

The two investors are among the sustainable investment leaders in the region and globally. Storebrand Asset Management has been a signatory to the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) since 2006 while SKAGEN signed up in 2012.

Storebrand, Norway’s largest private investor, managing assets of more than NOK600bn (€60bn), claims to be one of the first companies to adapt its investment portfolio to climate change. It works “strategically to make a positive impact on environmental and climate change issues in our business operations”.In 2008, it became Norway’s first completely climate neutral financial group. It excludes around 60 companies from its investment universe on environmental grounds.

In 2016 it launched three new fossil free funds and followed this in 2017 with an active Norwegian fund, Storebrand Norge Pluss, which excludes the whole energy sector. This year it also launched a new fund called Global ESG.

For its part, Stavanger-based SKAGEN’s position is that “investing responsibly is essential to achieving the best possible risk-adjusted returns for our unit holders over time”.

SKAGEN, which has €8.5bn under management and which is known for its Kon-Tiki fund, says it believes that “sustainability factors are often a signal of management quality, particularly over the long term”.

“Our portfolio managers therefore actively integrate environmental, social and corporate governance issues into the investment process.”

Staying in Norway, the Council on Ethics, the ethics watchdog for the country’s sovereign wealth fund, is reviewing allegations that controversial US pipeline operator Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) may be in breach of the fund’s investment guidelines.

ETP, which is behind the Dakota Access pipeline, could not be immediately reached, according to a Reuters report, which added the ethics panel has twice met Native American campaigners, most recently in Oslo on October 3.