March 29, 2018 / 7:34 PM / a year ago

New Jersey sells last remaining holding of semi- and automatic gunmaker

NEW YORK, March 29 (Reuters) - The New Jersey Department of the Treasury said on Thursday that the state’s $78 billion public pension system had sold its last remaining investment in any company that makes automatic and semi-automatic weapons for civilian use.

The state’s Division of Investment sold a $1.9 million position in Utah-based Vista Outdoor Inc., a designer and manufacturer of outdoor sporting goods, including guns and ammunition. Vista also owns Savage Arms, which makes assault rifles.

The sale, made on March 20, was first disclosed at a meeting of the State Investment Council on Wednesday. The council also said it would explore other possible future actions related to civilian firearm makers and retailers.

The move comes as other large public pension funds, investors and companies debate their holdings of gun manufacturers in the wake of America’s deadliest high school shooting in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14.

Earlier this month, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System board rejected a proposal to move toward divesting its investments in assault rifle retailers and wholesalers, saying the move would do little to reduce gun violence.

CalPERS, whose $355.4 billion in assets makes it the largest public pension fund in the United States, had divested from firearms manufacturers after the deadly shooting at Newtown, Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.

Businesses have also been pressuring the industry. Earlier this month, Canadian retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op said it suspended new orders from five Vista-owned outdoor activity brands.

BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest asset manager, also said in February after the Parkland shooting that it would speak with weapons makers and distributors “to understand their response” to Parkland. As of the company’s latest filing, BlackRock is the second-largest shareholder in Vista and owns 11.91 percent of outstanding shares, according to Thomson Reuters market data.

Kroger Co’s superstore chain Fred Meyer said this month that it would exit its firearms business, two weeks after deciding to stop selling guns and ammunition to those under the age of 21. (Reporting by Reade Levinson and Hilary Russ; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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