World’s biggest wealth fund puts Japan’s Kirin on watch list over Myanmar ties

Photo: Reuters

The Norwegian central bank said on Wednesday it had put Japan’s Kirin Holdings Ltd Co on a watch list for possible exclusion from its $1.3 trillion sovereign wealth fund over the beverage giant’s ties to a business owned by Myanmar‘s military.

Kirin has recently announced an intention to end this business cooperation, and the implementation of this will be followed up as a part of the observation,” the central bank said in a statement.

Kirin Holdings was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Reuters.

The drinks giant said on Feb. 5 it would scrap a joint venture called Myanmar Brewery, in which Kirin‘s controlling stake was valued at up to $1.7 billion, after the army staged a coup deposing the democratically elected government.

Later in the month, however, Kirin said it still wanted to keep selling beer in Myanmar.

Norges Bank Investment Management, which manages the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, held a 1.29% stake in Kirin Holdings at the end of 2020 with a value of $277.1 million.

The Norwegian sovereign fund, formally called the Government Pension Fund Global and set up in 1996 to save petroleum revenues for future generations, owns about 1.5% of all globally listed shares.

Holding stakes in around 9,100 companies worldwide, it has set the pace on a host of issues in the environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) field, and its decisions are often followed by other investors.

The bank separately said it would allow the wealth fund to invest again in Poland’s Atal SA, which had been excluded since 2017 for risk of human rights violations through its use of North Korean workers at Polish construction sites.

“As a result of a resolution in the United Nations Security Council, all North Korean workers have now been sent out of Poland. Therefore, there are no longer grounds for excluding the company,” Norges Bank said.

Atal did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

A third firm, Germany’s Thyssenkrupp AG, will be the subject of an “active ownership” process as the fund‘s management seeks to probe the company’s anti-corruption work, Norges bank said.

“Norges Bank has been in dialogue with the company over a long period of time. We therefore have a good foundation for active ownership on the issues to which this matter relates,” the central bank said.

The fund held a 1.3% stake in the German firm at the end of 2020 valued at $147.1 million.

Thyssenkrupp did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Reuters

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In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

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  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
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