Norway's $1.37 trillion sovereign wealth fund has sold its remaining stakes in Adani Group, it said Thursday during a news conference where officials also criticized an ESG backlash in the U.S.
Outlining the wealth fund's responsible investment activity in 2022, Christopher Wright, head of ESG risk monitoring for the fund managed by Norges Bank Investment Management, Oslo, said that NBIM has monitored the Adani Group companies "for many years" and since 2014 has divested from six of them, mainly for reasons linked to Adani Group's handling of environmental risks related to mining operations and deforestation, while three were divested because of their greenhouse gas emissions and exposure to the energy transition.
At the end of 2022, NBIM had a $52.7 million stake in Adani Green Energy, a $83.6 million stake in Adani Total Gas and shares worth $63.4 million in Adani Ports & Special Economic Zone, according to a year-end report.
Most of Adani Group's $8 billion in dollar bonds slid into distress after a short-seller's fraud allegations caused its stocks and bonds to tumble.
In 2022, NBIM divested a record 74 companies. While it doesn't usually name the companies, Mr. Wright said he identified Adani "because of the impact on the market."
NBIM officials also addressed the backlash against ESG in the U.S. during the news conference. "We think it is really, really, seriously bad," CEO Nicolai Tangen said.
NBIM will "increasingly vote against boards that don't have credible plans for addressing it," and will focus on board diversity in the coming year, Mr. Tangen said.
"ESG has never been more important. There is clearly a backlash against ESG in some parts of the world but we just need to work continuously work relentlessly on this field," he said.
The ESG backlash "is a concern. For us ESG is financial," said Carine Smith Ihenacho, chief governance and compliance officer at the gathering.