Norwegians have been lucky for decades. Their country has been operating on a surplus thanks to oil and gas revenue. However, some Norwegians have been questioning how the government has been allocating that revenue, as well as their pension funds’ assets.
Some people have had serious problems with the companies in which they have invested funds. This is especially true of the funds run by the government. The largest pension fund in Norway said it’ll divest itself of companies that profit from alcohol sales, gambling or pornography. The fund said it will change its asset allocation of $80 billion from “vice” funds to other funds.
There has been a lot of debate recently about how the funds invest the citizens’ money. One fund that has received a lot of discussion is the Norwegian Oil Fund. Created in the 1970s, it makes sure that Norway is no longer vulnerable to the fluctuations in the oil market. In addition, Norway wanted to grow the fund. If its oil reserves should run out, the country would have enough money to make sure its economy would survive.
While Norwegians are proud of their fund, they are also debating some of its investments. In addition, they are questioning the investments of other large pension funds, such as KLP. One of the biggest controversies has been over the funds’ investment into gambling.
Founded in 1949, Oslo-based KLP began as an insurance company. Its purpose was to help municipal and county workers manage their pensions. KLP now has total assets worth nearly $300 billion. KLP manages a large number of trusts for Norway. The company has 337 municipal and county pension funds. Thirty-one of those are health trusts. It also has more than 2,000 clients in the public sector. KLP has resources scattered throughout Norway, as well as in other countries. For example, KLP has significant resources in real estate in Norway and Denmark. The company also has significant resources in a large bank that holds loans for municipalities and counties.
The Trouble with Vices
Many Norwegian funds invest heavily in vice stocks. This is the case even though some of the vices are heavily controlled or regulated. One vice that the government controls in the country is gambling. Norway has placed very stringent restrictions on gambling. Only two companies can legally offer gambling in the country. Norway’s government has also gone to great lengths to restrict the activity of its citizens who want to gamble elsewhere. Norway prevents its banks from granting purchases to its citizens who are trying to gamble outside the country.
Recent newspaper articles pointed out that the oil fund has invested in more than 60 gambling companies around the world. The gambling companies represent casino stocks, online gambling, and sports gambling. The oil fund has more than $3 billion invested in gambling stocks.
There has been an equal amount of debate going on in Norway about KLP as well. KLP invested more than $300 million in companies receiving more than 5 percent of their income from alcohol or gambling. That 5 percent also covers companies receiving income from pornography. KLP has said it is not its position to comment on vices. However, given the political climate, it has chosen to divest from vice companies. In a statement, KLP acknowledged that gambling and alcohol are not a problem in moderation. However, it noted addiction to either alcohol or gambling causes problems for individuals, their families, and the community.
While KLP has decided to divest itself from vice stocks, the Norwegian Oil Fund has not taken the same position. The fund remains invested in gambling companies around the world.
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