Norway sovereign wealth fund drops Thai, Israeli firms on rights concerns

A general view of the Norwegian central bank, where Norway's sovereign wealth fund is situated, in Oslo
A general view of the Norwegian central bank, where Norway's sovereign wealth fund is situated, in Oslo, Norway, March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Gwladys Fouche

Dec 16 (Reuters) - Norway's sovereign wealth fund said on Thursday it would exclude from its portfolio two Thai companies and one Israeli firm that it said held "unacceptable risk" of human rights' violations.

The $1.3 trillion fund's executive board decided to exclude Israeli security and analytics software provider Cognyte Software Ltd (CGNT.O), Thai national energy company PTT (PTT.BK) and its PTT Oil and Retail Business (OR.BK) unit, the fund said.

The fund's ethics council said the Thai firms' partnerships with Myanmar state- and military-owned companies and its activities there provide the armed forces "with substantial revenue streams that can finance military operations and abuses".

The fund cited an "unacceptable risk that the companies contribute to serious violations of individuals' rights in situations of war or conflict".

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army overthrew an elected government in February 2021 and used lethal force to suppress protests against its rule.

PTT and PTTOR did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Myanmar's military government did not answer calls seeking comment. The junta has previously blamed the lack of progress on instability in the country and the pandemic.

Another PTT unit, PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) (PTTEP.BK), said in March it would take over operations of the Yadana gas field in Myanmar after France's TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) exited.

PTTEP had said it "recognises that equitable access to energy is a fundamental human right that all people are entitled to".

On Cognyte, the fund's ethics council said several states that are said to be customers of its surveillance products and services "have been accused of extremely serious human rights violations." The statement did not name any state.

Cognyte did not respond to a request for comment.

The fund said the decisions were based on ethics council recommendations from May and June. It did not mention the fund's stake in the companies and did not respond to a request for further comment on the suspensions.

It said it would remove Italy's Leonardo SpA (LDOF.MI) from "observation", as the reason it was placed under that criteria was "no longer grounds for observation".

Leonardo did not respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Ann Maria Shibu; Editing by William Mallard

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