TIAA-CREF sells shares in 4 firms over Sudan ties

TIAA-CREF carried out its first divestments over human rights issues in Sudan, selling its holdings in PetroChina, CNPC Hong Kong, China Petroleum & Chemical (Sinopec), and Oil and Natural Gas Corp. of India, TIAA-CREF announced today.

The holdings, all equities, totaled $33.3 million, less than 1% of TIAA-CREF's $121 billion in equities as of Dec. 31, 2008, the latest figures available, according to Abby Aylman Cohen, TIAA-CREF media relations manager.

“Our decision to sell shares in these companies culminated a three-year effort to encourage them to end their ties to Sudan or attempt to end suffering there,” Roger W. Ferguson Jr., TIAA-CREF's president and CEO, said in the statement.

TIAA-CREF warned the companies it “would divest by year-end 2009 from those that refused to acknowledge the genocide (in Darfur) and engage in a productive dialogue about how to confront it,” according to the TIAA-CREF statement.

TIAA-CREF stepped up pressure on the four companies and PETRONAS Gas and PETRONAS Dagangan, both of Malaysia, last March and toughened its internal policy to include divestment, said Ms. Cohen. TIAA-CREF owned stock worth $1.3 million and $435,121 respectively as of year-end 2008.

“We have not divested from PETRONAS, which has acknowledged our concerns and engaged in dialogue about how it might address them,” Mr. Ferguson said in the statement. TIAA-CREF continues to work with the company on the issue, Ms. Cohen said.

A number of TIAA-CREF portfolios had invested in the four companies, Ms. Cohen said. She was unable to provide information on when the shares were sold.

TIAA-CREF owned $18.5 million in PetroChina stock, $848,920 in CNPC, $10.2 million in Sinopec and $3.8 million in Oil & Natural Gas shares.

TIAA-CREF's “decision regarding portfolio companies with ties to Sudan considered a number of factors, including the gravity of TIAA-CREF's concerns in Sudan … and a conclusion that divestment would have an insignificant impact on the financial performance of participants' portfolios,” the statement said.