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Tobacco: Good Business in Periods of Crisis

The Norwegian Government Pension Fund – Global experienced enormous losses in 2008, but the investments in tobacco are still increasing at full speed. In one year the tobacco investments have increased by all of 24.6%, from 1.3 billion euros to NOK 1.6 billion. Never before have the tobacco investments been higher.

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The Norwegian Government Pension Fund – Global experienced enormous losses in 2008, but the investments in tobacco are still increasing at full speed. In one year the tobacco investments have increased by all of 24.6%, from 1.3 billion euros to NOK 1.6 billion. Never before have the tobacco investments been higher.


tobakk_thailand.jpg[English translation published 18 March 2009]
By Pia A. Gaarder
Norwatch

Norwatch has followed the investments in the largest tobacco companies for several years, and never before has the Norwegian Government Pension Fund – Global invested more in tobacco than at the end of the crisis year 2008. Norges Bank has now presented the annual report for the Pension Fund. Norwatch’s review of the investment portfolio as of 31 December 2008 shows that all of 1.3 billion euros (14.2 billion NOK) is now invested in the ten largest stock-exchange-listed tobacco companies. That is an increase of all of 24.6% since 2007. 

The investments in the Altria Group Inc (which comprises, among others, Philip Morris USA) are now at 103 million euros (916.3 million NOK), whereas all of 374 million euros (NOK 3.3 billion) has been invested in Philip Morris International, which was separated from Altria in March of 2008. The investments in British American Tobacco have increased from 283 million to 544 million, and those in Imperial Tobacco Group from 160 million to 272 million euros. The Pension Fund has, however, completely withdrawn from the Spanish company Altadis, decreased in Japan Tobacco and invested somewhat less in companies like Loews and Fortune Brands.

Gold in Times of Crisis
The administrators of the Pension Fund have thus clearly flung themselves onto the tobacco shares that internationally are considered to be worth gold in times of crisis. The administrators have thus provided even stronger support for the international tobacco industry’s heavy investment in developing countries.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has long sounded the alarm and shown that tobacco smoking is becoming a huge problem in developing countries. Whereas tobacco smoking is decreasing among the world’s rich, it is increasing in poor countries, where the tobacco industry exploits and even intensifies the difficulties of implementing an active health policy.

The ethical guidelines for the Pension Fund are to be revised shortly.

“If the Norwegian Pension Fund sells off its shares in the tobacco industry, this will create an important precedence and become an example to be followed,” Stella Bialous, independent expert and senior advisor for the WHO, told Norwatch last summer.

Tobacco investments will doubtlessly become one of the big issues of contention. A series of investors internationally and in Norway (such as KLP and Storebrand) have long ago divested their funds of tobacco.
The market value of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund – Global was 258 billion euros (NOK 2,275 billion) at the end of 2008, which is an increase from 229 billion euros (NOK 2,019 billion) the year before. The addition to the Fund throughout 2008 was a record high of 43 billion euros (NOK 384 billion) and has in its entirety been utilised to buy shares on the international markets, according to the press release from Norges Bank.

 

TABLE 1 - The tobacco investments of the Norwegian Pension Fund Global 2005-2008

 

 Companies
 2005* 2006* 2007* 2008*
 Altadis   672,1  509,6  908,7 0
 Altria Group  2.604,7  2.960,9  3.502,9  916,3
 Philip Morris International**        3.335,1
 British American Tobacco  991,3 1.380,3  2.517,1  4.777,8
 Japan Tobacco  438,6  1.423,9  1.914,7  1.469,9
 Imperial Tobacco  664,9 799,7  1.360,0  2.246,9
 Swedish Match  268,3  336,6  528,0  523,1
 Loew’s Corp  108,3  193,1  448,2  396,5
 Fortune Brands  242,8  133,2
 198,1  196,9
 KT&G Corp  4,7 1,4
 22,4  114,9
 Souza Cruz  15,3  21,8  1,0  52,1
 Gallaher Group  281,3  313,0  0 0
 Total  6.292,3  8.073,5  11.401,6  14.209,5



*) Numbers are all in million Norwegian kroners. The figures are collected from the annual report of the Norwegian Pension Fund Global 2008, 2007 and 2006 issued by Norges Banks Kapitalforvaltning, and by the Government's Petroleum Fund for 2005. The annual reports show the investments as of December 31st of each year. The portfolio for 2008 was published on 11 March 2009.

**) Philip Morris International was separated as a company from Altria Group on 28 March 2008. Altria maintained control over Philip Morris USA. Altria Group was from 2003 the new mother company of Kraft Foods, Philip Morris International, Philip Morris USA and Philip Morris Capital Corporation.

 

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