Danish pension fund bans four firms over West Bank settlement activity

It is unclear how companies will be affected by the divestment.

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October 13, 2017 01:47
2 minute read.
Ramallah

A protester places a Palestinian flag at the Israeli barrier fence in the West Bank village of Rafat near Ramallah. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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One of Denmark’s largest pension funds announced that it will bar investment in four companies that operate in West Bank settlements.

Sampension – with some $46.1 billion (290b. Danish kroner) under management – announced the blacklist in a press release last week, which excludes Israel’s two largest banks, Hapoalim and Leumi, along with Israeli telecom giant Bezeq and German- based Heidelberg Cement.

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The Danish public-employee pension fund is divesting from the four companies due to their role in “the financing of settlements, the extraction of natural resources and [the] establishment of infrastructure for telecommunications in occupied territory.”

Heidelberg Cement is barred because its subsidiary, Hanson Ltd., operates an asphalt factory and quarry in the West Bank .

In addition to these four companies, Sampension said that it was talking with six other multinational corporations about how their economic activity in settlements may violate “international principles.”

It is unclear how Sampension’s decision to divest will affect the excluded firms. For example, the Danish pension fund is not currently invested in Bank Hapoalim.

“We don’t know of any significant investment of the pension fund in the bank. We don’t see any investment in the bank currently,” one source in the capital markets told The Jerusalem Post.



Bezeq and Heidelberg Cement declined to comment, while Bank Leumi and the Economy Ministry could not be reached by press time.

Sampension’s blacklist includes dozens of companies previously excluded from the fund. Other Israeli companies that are barred include munitions manufacturer Aryt Industries and defense contractor Elbit Systems, along with American aerospace firms Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

To defend its move, Sampension cited an investigative report by leftist investigative site Danwatch, which looked at how Danish pension funds are connected to businesses in Israeli settlements.

It is possible that the fund’s US business ties could take a hit, as many American municipalities and states require public pension funds to dump their stakes in companies that participate in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

One analyst dismissed concern over the blacklist, saying that the pension fund’s decision likely poses little threat to the Israeli economy.

“I don’t think it’s such a big deal. From time to time, there’s a pension fund that’s deciding to sell Israeli stocks, and it’s not a big amount. It’s a declaration by them that they won’t invest in Israeli banks. It’s no news in my opinion,” said Alon Glazer, a banking analyst at Leader Capital Markets. “Most foreign investors don’t care about the boycott.”

A few European pension funds and financial institutions have previously blacklisted Israeli companies due to their financing of settlement construction, including Europe’s third-largest pension fund, the Dutch PFZW, which divested from Israel’s five main banks in 2014.

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