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Saturday, 31 January 2009

Norway oil fund expels Textron, Barrick Gold

Norway has shut 27 companies out of the fund for ethical reasons, including nine producers of cluster munitions.

OSLO, Jan 30 (Thomson IM) - Norway's $300 billion plus sovereign wealth fund has excluded U.S. weapons producer Textron Inc and Canadian mining group Barrick Gold Corp for ethical reasons.

The finance ministry said on Friday Textron was ejected from the fund, one of the world's biggest investors, because it produced cluster munitions.

'We cannot participate in the funding of this type of production,' Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen said in a statement.

She said Barrick Gold's exclusion was 'based on the assessment that investing in the company entails an unacceptable risk of the fund contributing to serious environmental damage.'

The Government Pension Fund -- Global, which held 1.25 billion Norwegian crowns ($184.7 million) worth of Barrick Gold stock at the end of July 2008 and 249 million crowns worth of Textron stock at the end of October, has divested its holdings in both companies, the ministry said.

The companies could not be reached for comment.

So far Norway has shut 27 companies out of the fund for ethical reasons, including nine producers of cluster munitions, but also landmine and nuclear arms manufacturers and groups that its ethics council has blamed for damaging the environment or abusing human rights or worker rights.

In December 2008, Norway hosted a conference that agreed a new international ban on cluster munitions, a type of weapon blamed for tens of thousands of civilian casualties around the world in conflicts from Vietnam to Afghanistan.

'The company (Textron) produces cluster weapons, which are banned pursuant to the Convention on Cluster Munitions,' Halvorsen said in the statement.

Barrick, the world's largest gold miner, joins South Africa's DRD Gold, India-focused Vedanta Resources and U.S. group Freeport McMorRan among miners removed from Norway's investment fund for environmental reasons.

The ethics council based its recommendation to exclude Barrick on an investigation of its activities at the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea, the finance ministry said.

'In the opinion of the Council, the way this mine is run provides sufficient basis for recommending exclusion,' the ministry said.

(Reporting by John Acher and Wojciech Moskwa; Editing by David Cowell) ($1=6.768 Norwegian Crown) Keywords: NORWAY OILFUND/

12 cheque offers signal Dubai rental market shift

A new era has begun in the Dubai rental property market with a number of landlords offering monthly rent payments as bank lending tightens and the real estate market cools, Arabian Business can reveal.

From being a one-cheque culture just six months ago, the emirate's landlords are starting to offer 12 cheque payment schemes to tenants in a bid to fill accommodation.

With more properties coming onto the market as job losses mount and tenants downsize amid the global crisis, landlords are increasingly showing more flexibility, keen to secure rental income, it has emerged.

Laws not sufficient for foreign capital

Arab investment laws are still not attractive enough to foreign capital as they include many obstacles and do not provide enough protection to investors, according to the Arab League's main financial and investment institution.

Despite a sharp increase in foreign capital flow into some Arab nations over the past few years, regional countries still impose restrictions and some of their governments do not respect agreements signed with the investors, the Inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation (IAIGC) said.

"There are too many obstacles for foreign investment and inter-Arab investment in the region. They include the absence of a unified law to regulate investment in member states and failure of some governments to comply with the agreements they sign with the investors," said Fahd bin Rashid Al Ibrahim, IAIGC Director.