REFILE-BNP Paribas suspends agricultural fund after criticism

Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:52pm EST

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PARIS Feb 12 (Reuters) - BNP Paribas, France's No. 1 listed bank, has suspended a 160 million euro ($214 million) agricultural commodities fund after international aid group Oxfam criticized French banks for speculating on food prices.

"We are suspending subscriptions," a spokeswoman for BNP said of its Parvest World Agriculture fund, explaining the move as part of the bank's policy on corporate and social responsibility.

The fund is the bank's most exposed to food commodities, she said.

Banks around the world have come under fire for speculating on grain and other agriculture products, which critics say has pushed up food prices and fueled unrest in some poor countries.

BNP also intends to close its Easy ETF Ultra light Energy fund, which had 43 million euros in assets by end-January, of which 37 percent was linked to food commodities, the spokeswoman said.

Food commodities amounted to 411 million euros, or 0.08 percent of the total in assets BNP Paribas manages, it said.

BNP said the move was taken after regular meetings with non-profit group Oxfam, which released a report on Tuesday blaming banks for "speculating on hunger".

Oxfam called for more banks to close food-related funds.

"Banks have a decisive role to play in the fight against food price volatility, which jeopardizes the right to food for hundreds of millions of people in the southern part of the world," Oxfam France said.

Barclays said on Tuesday it was halting trading in agricultural markets with hedge funds in a move to burnish its reputation amid a major overhaul.

Last month, Deutsche Bank said it would keep dealing in financial derivatives as it had found little empirical evidence that financial instruments lead to increases or greater volatility in food prices. ($1 = 0.7474 euros) (Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide, Lionel Laurent and Matthias Blamont; editing by Jane Baird)

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