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May 19, 2023

The week in IR: Goldman cuts Adani stakes, Norway’s oil fund steps up ESG proposals and OpenAI boss calls for AI laws in the US

Our pick of the IR stories from around the web you might have missed this week

– According to Bloomberg (paywall), the investment arm of Goldman Sachs dramatically reduced its exposure to the Adani Group in its ESG portfolios in the weeks following allegations of fraud against the conglomerate by short-seller Hindenburg Research. Goldman funds registered as promoting ESG goals under European Union rules sold about 11.7 mn shares in Adani companies in February, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Following the retreat, Goldman Sachs Asset Management’s actively managed ESG fund exposure to Adani was limited to a stake of roughly 400,000 shares in Ambuja Cements, the data shows. 

– According to the Financial Times (paywall), Norway’s $1.4 tn oil fund will step up its use of shareholder proposals to send messages on ESG topics to US companies after quietly testing them out at a small number of annual meetings. The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund filed shareholder proposals on climate for the first time this year at four US companies but did not publicize them until now, its head of corporate governance told the FT. Two companies – Packaging Corporation of America and Marathon Petroleum – gave commitments on climate so the fund withdrew its proposals. At two others – NewMarket and Westlake – the annual meeting voted on the oil fund’s motion.

– Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, testified before a US Senate committee earlier this week about the possibilities and pitfalls of the new technology, the BBC reported. In a matter of months, several AI models have entered the market and Altman said a new agency should be formed to license AI companies. ChatGPT and other similar programs can create incredibly human-like answers to questions but can also be wildly inaccurate. Altman has become a spokesperson of sorts for the burgeoning industry, refusing to shy away from addressing the ethical questions AI raises, and has pushed for more regulation.

– Meanwhile, according to the FT, UK ministers have been put under pressure over planned crypto regulations by a group of crossbench MPs who are seeking a more radical overhaul of the industry. The Treasury Select Committee published a report this week in which members said crypto should be treated like gambling, given it had ‘no intrinsic value, huge price volatility and no discernible social good’. MPs on the committee said the government proposals would create a ‘halo effect’, giving consumers the impression that assets were safe and protected.

– In Asian markets, the South China Morning Post reported that despite Beijing actively wooing overseas investors as part of its post-pandemic economic recovery, China’s foreign direct investment (FDI) shrank in the first four months of the year. The country’s actual use of FDI reached $73.5 bn in the January-April period, dropping 3.3 percent from a year earlier, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce. The figures suggest Beijing still has lots of work to do to lure foreign investors, which play a vital role in terms of China’s access to technology, funds and management expertise, especially as tensions with the US persist and Beijing’s raids on finance and due-diligence firms in the name of national security have raised concerns in the investor community.

– United Rentals announced this week the appointment of Elizabeth Grenfell as vice president of IR, effective immediately, Yahoo! Finance reported. Grenfell is now responsible for managing communications between the company’s leadership, current and future investors and the broader financial community. She assumes responsibility for investor relations from Ted Grace, who has served as the company’s primary investor contact since 2016 and is currently chief financial officer. Prior to joining United, Grenfell was a research analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch covering the aerospace & defense sector, previous to which she was an ETF investment strategist at BlackRock.

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The staff writers on IR magazine are from our team of highly experienced journalists.