European pension funds have pulled almost €150m ($215m) in investments from French oil company Total in a matter of days in protest at the company’s involvement in Burma.
The Total boycott is being led by pension funds in Denmark. Earlier this week, Danish foreign affairs minister, Per Stig Møller, called for European Union sanctions on investment into the country.
ATP, the €58.75bn Danish labour market pension fund, has sold a €135m equity stake in Total and is withdrawing money from other oil companies working with Myanmar Oil, the Burmese petroleum group. PKA, which administers €15bn in assets for eight of the country’s occupational pension funds, has pulled €8.4m from Total and is considering whether to sell investments in Chinese companies with links to the Burmese military regime. A spokesman said a decision on further divestments would be taken shortly.
Total is under fire because of its joint venture in the Yadana gas project in southern Burma, whichhuman rights groups say earns the country’s military regime hundreds of millions of dollars every year. The Burma Campaign UK, a pressure group, has named other oil and engineering companies on what it says is a ‘dirty list’ of businesses with links to the country. They include Chevron, the US oil company, Daewoo, the South Korean conglomerate, KOGAS, the Korea Gas Corporation, Maersk, the Danish shipping group, Nippon Oil, Schlumberger and Siemens. European investors said they had taken action following the approval of sanctions against Burma by European Union foreign ministers, which included an embargo on the export of wood, gems and metals. GES Investment Services, the Swedish governance group, which advises investors managing assets of approximately €250bn ($357bn), said it had started a cooperation between investors including the Church of Sweden, Swedish insurance company Folksam and Norwegian life insurance company KLP to initiate “precautionary engagement” with companies they invest in to ensure they have no links to human rights
violations in Burma. Dutch pension funds, PGGM, the €86bn healthcare scheme, and PNO Media, the €2.7bn industry-wide pension fund for the broadcasting sector, have said they could pull investment in companies active in Burma if discussions about their activities do not lead to any progress.A statement on Total’s website, said: “Rather than respond to the unwarranted criticism, we want to restore balanced debate on whether a responsible multinational company can contribute positively to the economic and social development of a country that faces sharp internal divisions.”