Norway's sovereign wealth fund expels unethical tobacco producers.

Related news:
Swedish Match forms worldwide cigars giant

Norway sovereign wealth fund has kicks out 17 tobacco producers -- including Swedish Match -- from its 450 billion dollar portfolio for ethical reasons, the government said in a statement Tuesday.

'It is important that the ethical guidelines reflect at all times what can be considered to be commonly held values of the owners of the fund,' Finance Minister Sigbjorn Johnsen said. "The divestment of shares in these companies has now been completed".

Also British groups British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco, US groups Altria, Philip Morris and Reynolds American and Japanese company Japan Tobacco were expelled.

The Norwegian sovereign wealth fund -- which contains nearly all of the state revenues from the oil industry in Norway, one of the world's largest oil and gas exporters -- holds 1.0 percent of the world's total stock market capitalisation.

Shares in Swedish Match, tobacco producer founded in 1917 by the “Match-king” Ivar Kreuger and today specializing in snuff, cigars and lights products, dropped 0.80 percent in Stockholm.

The move was not unexpected. In April, Norway's then finance minister Kristin Halvorsen proposed that tobacco companies be included on the fund's blacklist, a proposal later approved by parliament.

The Norwegian fund has previously expelled companies that produce nuclear arms or cluster munitions, damage the environment or abuse human rights or workers rights.

The Government Pension Fund Global is managed by the central bank and uses income from Norway's petroleum wealth.

At the end of September, it was worth 2.549 trillion kroner (304.3 billion euros, 446.7 billion dollars), invested in international stocks and bonds.

In September last year state pension fund, one of the world's biggest investors, made headlines when it banned an Israeli company from its portfolio. Israeli group Elbit was accused of providing a surveillance system for the separation wall in the West Bank, which the International Court of Justice ruled illegal in 2004, according to AFP. The Israeli foreign ministry in turn summoned Norway's ambassador to protest the move.

The excluded tobacco companies are: Alliance One International, Altria Group, British American Tobacco Plc and British American Tobacco BHD, Gudang Garam tbk PT, Imperial Tobacco Group, ITC, Japan Tobacco, KT&G Corp, Lorillard, Philip Morris International and Philip Morris Cr AS, Reynolds American Inc, Souza Cruz, Swedish Match, Universal Corp and Vector Group Ltd.

Companies that only make additives or filters were not affected by the move.

Last Updated (Tuesday, 19 January 2010 16:09)