Dan­ish pen­sion fund bans four firms over set­tle­ment ac­tiv­ity

Un­clear how com­pa­nies will be af­fected by di­vest­ment

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By MAX SCHINDLER

One of Den­mark’s largest pen­sion funds an­nounced that it will bar in­vest­ment in four com­pa­nies that op­er­ate in West Bank set­tle­ments.

Sam­p­en­sion – with some $46.1 bil­lion (290b. Dan­ish kro­ner) un­der man­age­ment – an­nounced the black­list in a press re­lease last week, which ex­cludes Is­rael’s two largest banks, Hapoalim and Leumi, along with Is­raeli tele­com gi­ant Bezeq and Ger­man-based Hei­del­berg Ce­ment.

The Dan­ish pub­lic-em­ployee pen­sion fund is di­vest­ing from the four com­pa­nies due to their role in “the fi­nanc­ing of set­tle­ments, the ex­trac­tion of nat­u­ral re­sources and [the] es­tab­lish­ment of in­fra­struc­ture for telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in oc­cu­pied ter­ri­tory.”

Hei­del­berg Ce­ment is barred be­cause its sub­sidiary, Han­son Ltd., op­er­ates an as­phalt fac­tory and quarry in Sa­maria.

In ad­di­tion to these four com­pa­nies, Sam­p­en­sion said that it was talk­ing with six other multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions about how their eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity in set­tle­ments may vi­o­late “in­ter­na­tional prin­ci­ples.”

It is un­clear how Sam­p­en­sion’s de­ci­sion to di­vest will af­fect the ex­cluded firms. For ex­am­ple, the Dan­ish pen­sion fund is not cur­rently in­vested in Bank Hapoalim.

“We don’t know of any sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment of the pen­sion fund in the bank. We don’t see any in­vest­ment in the bank cur­rently,” one source in the cap­i­tal mar­kets told The Jerusalem Post.

Bezeq and Hei­del­berg Ce­ment de­clined to com­ment, while Bank Leumi and the Econ­omy Min­istry could not be reached by press time.

Sam­p­en­sion’s black­list in­cludes dozens of com­pa­nies pre­vi­ously ex­cluded from the fund. Other Is­raeli com­pa­nies that are barred in­clude mu­ni­tions man­u­fac­turer Aryt In­dus­tries and de­fense con­trac­tor El­bit Sys­tems, along with Amer­i­can aero­space firms Boe­ing and Lock­heed Martin.

To de­fend its move, Sam­p­en­sion cited an in­ves­tiga­tive re­port by left­ist in­ves­tiga­tive site Dan­watch, which looked at how Dan­ish pen­sion funds are con­nected to busi­nesses in Is­raeli set­tle­ments.

It is pos­si­ble that the fund’s US busi­ness ties could take a hit, as many Amer­i­can mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and states re­quire pub­lic pen­sion funds to dump their stakes in com­pa­nies that par­tic­i­pate in the Boy­cott, Di­vest­ment and Sanc­tions move­ment.

One an­a­lyst dis­missed con­cern over the black­list, say­ing that the pen­sion fund’s de­ci­sion likely poses lit­tle threat to the Is­raeli econ­omy.

“I don’t think it’s such a big deal. From time to time, there’s a pen­sion fund that’s de­cid­ing to sell Is­raeli stocks, and it’s not a big amount. It’s a dec­la­ra­tion by them that they won’t in­vest in Is­raeli banks. It’s no news in my opin­ion,” said Alon Glazer, a bank­ing an­a­lyst at Leader Cap­i­tal Mar­kets. “Most for­eign in­vestors don’t care about the boy­cott.”

A few Euro­pean pen­sion funds and fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions have pre­vi­ously black­listed Is­raeli com­pa­nies due to their fi­nanc­ing of set­tle­ment con­struc­tion, in­clud­ing Europe’s third-largest pen­sion fund, the Dutch PFZW, which di­vested from Is­rael’s five main banks in 2014.

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