Almost 16 months ago, Norway’s Government Pension Fund (GPF), the country’s sovereign wealth fund, announced it would divest from its oil and gas holdings to mitigate against drops in oil prices. The government established a commission to study the issue, and now a compromise has been reached.
The fund will divest only from pure exploration and production (E&P) plays, retaining integrated stocks in the likes of ExxonMobil, BP and Shell. Of its 341 oil-related stocks, 134 will have to go — $7.5 billion of its $37 billion portfolio — but that is only a dent (0.8 percent) in a fund worth a trillion dollars, $632 billion of which is invested in equities. (…)
The reasoning behind diversifying the fund’s assets from Norway’s core economic activities makes sense given its dependence on oil and gas. The country is, after all, Europe’s largest producer. Moreover, Norway does not play in the refining and chemicals sector, hence the limitation on divesting pure E&P plays. The value of E&P stocks is more susceptible to oil price swings, and the GPF also cited the record of supermajors in investing in renewable energy, like solar or wind, for hanging on to their shares.
The numbers and the motivation, though, are neither here nor there: It is the perception that matters. It is true that the oil industry will continue to be significant for Norway. According to BP’s latest Energy Outlook, fossil fuels will still account for more than 60 percent of global energy demand by 2040. Oil’s share will be the largest, exceeding a quarter of the total.