Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Friday, 30 January 2009

Norway sells 'unethical' shares

Norway flag
Norway is a major oil and gas exporter

Norway's state investment fund has blacklisted US firm Textron, owner of top planemaker Cessna, and Canadian mining firm Barrick Gold.

The fund, an ethical investor, sold shares in the firms because Textron makes cluster bombs and because of environmental concerns about Barrick.

The fund, which has a value of about $300bn (208bn), sold $400m worth of shares in the two companies.

Barrick said investors were free to choose which company to invest in.

The Norwegian fund - known as the oil fund as it invests surplus oil and gas revenues - operates under ethical guidelines.

We acquired the mine... a few years ago and have been [making] steady progress in improving its performance
Vincent Borg, Barrick Gold

In the past, it has blacklisted companies which produce nuclear arms and companies deemed to have abused workers' rights.

Last September, it stopped investment in Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto because of environmental concerns.

Freedom of choice

The Norwegian finance ministry has accused Barrick Gold of causing severe environmental damage in Papua New Guinea, but Barrick says its mine meets all the requirements for operating in Papua New Guinea.

"We acquired the mine... a few years ago and have been [making] steady progress in improving its performance," Vincent Borg, a Barrick spokesman said, adding that investors are free to choose which shares to own.

Norway has signed a treaty to ban current designs of cluster bombs, a fact which explains its reluctance to invest in Textron shares.

"We cannot participate in the funding of this type of production," said Norway's finance minister Kristin Halvorsen, referring to Textron's manufacture of cluster bombs.

Textron spokesman Stephen Greene said the firm's designs mitigated against the danger of unexploded ordinance - ammunition or bombs which have not detonated and may still be dangerous.

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