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Hong Kong’s CLP, HK Electric could be victims of Norwegian fund sell-off

Power companies CLP and HK Electric could be the innocent victims of a decision by Norway’s parliament to sell off coal investments in the country’s US$880 billion sovereign wealth fund.

According to new rules approved by the Norwegian parliament’s finance committee on Friday, the Government Pension Fund Global – also known as the oil fund because of its funding from oil and gas production – will sell stakes in companies that get at least 30 per cent of their revenue from coal mining or burning fossil fuels or ongoing projects that surpass the 30 per cent threshold.

The measures are to be implemented by January 1, 2016.

The move was welcomed by the country’s lawmakers and environmental groups who estimate the fund’s investments in coal could be more than US$11 billion. It was not immediately known how much of these investments would be affected.

Climate change is one of three themes that Norges Bank Investment Management, which manages the pension fund’s assets, adopts in its investment outlook.

“Coal is by far the biggest source of greenhouse gases, so this is a big victory for the climate,” said committee member Torstein Tvedt Solberg of the opposition Labour party.

The fund has divested from 114 companies in the past three years, including 14 companies in the coal mining sector last year. The fund’s coal mining assets totalled 493 million kroner (HK$486 million) at the end of the first quarter, down from 805 million in December, according to its first-quarter report.

Environmental group Greenpeace expects four companies in Hong Kong and 12 mainland firms to be among 122 enterprises the Norwegian fund might sell its stakes in, potentially raising a combined HK$3.72 billion for the oil fund.

The impact from selling its coal-related investments in Chinese companies should be minimal to Hong Kong’s stock market, given the relatively small stakes involved. The fund’s holdings in Chinese stocks represents a paltry 1.86 per cent of April’s average daily turnover of HK$200 billion.

According to the non-governmental organisation’s estimate, the fund owns CLP shares worth about HK$1.4 billion. Its coal-fired plants represent 66 per cent of its overall power generating capacity.

The fund owns HK Electric shares worth HK$16 million. Its coal-fired plants account for 67 per cent of generation capacity.

Among the 12 mainland companies, the largest investments are in state-owned power producer China Resources Power Holdings and coal miner Shenhua Energy Group.