Norway SWF held almost 4,000 meetings in 2016

Mar 09, 2017
<p>$905 bn oil fund met with 1,589 companies last year</p>

The world’s largest pension fund, which on average owns 1.3 percent of every listed company in the world, has revealed that it voted on 112,210 resolutions at 11,249 shareholder meetings last year.

It also held 3,790 meetings at 1,589 different companies, with ESG issues being raised in half of those meetings. Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global owns shares in almost 9,000 companies worldwide and says it aims to vote at all general meetings.

The fund, which has become increasingly active – particularly on environmental issues – says ‘good corporate governance and sustainable business practices’ are in the fund’s long-term interest. 

‘We are a large global investor with minority ownership in almost 9,000 companies,’ says Yngve Slyngstad, CEO of Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), which oversees the fund. ‘Insight is a prerequisite for responsible management. Good corporate governance and sustainable business practices will contribute to higher long-term returns.’

The fund reveals that it voted against company-backed resolutions at half of its top 50 holdings in 2016, with proxy access, combined chairman and CEO roles and board independence all coming under fire at firms including Apple, Wells Fargo and Samsung. 

Last year, the Financial Times reported that the oil fund, which had traditionally avoided confronting companies on remuneration, had begun talks with around 40 companies on the issue of excessive pay. Of the proposals it voted against at top 50 firms in 2016, two were over remuneration: at French pharmaceuticals firm Sanofi and German software group SAP.

The oil fund also talked about its initiative to disclose its voting intentions ahead of meetings. Having considered 14 companies for pre-meeting disclosure in 2016, ‘we published voting intentions ahead of meetings at six companies,’ states the fund in its 2016 Responsible Investment report.

The fund’s focus on ethical investment led to 64 companies being excluded from its portfolio in 2016, with a further 12 firms put under observation.

As well as environmental factors, NBIM’s wide-ranging scope extends from double-voting rights in France to the use of Syrian refugees in Turkish apparel supply chains.

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