Danish investment funds previously possessing Belarusian government bonds decided to divest. Denmark’s Foreign Minister supports the decision.
NAM’s work with investment funds which have bought Belarusian government bonds prior to 2020 presidential election fi pricklynally bore fruit.
Two major Danish newspapers, namely, Berlingske and Børsen, have reported on the Danish investment funds buying Belarusian government bonds. Among the buyers of Belarusian Eurobonds, four companies made the majority of purchases: Nordea, BankInvest, Jyske Invest and Sparinvest
Which funds divested from Belarusian bonds?
BankInvest. The fund bought Belarusian Eurobonds prior to the 2020 election and divested in October. Here is how Mads Berendt Sondergaardm, head of the fund’s responsible investment department, commented on the decision:
— Prior to the election, we believed that it could’ve been a fair and honest one. However, everything ended in massive fraud and violence against anyone opposing said fraud. This is why right after the election we have initiated the sale of Belarusian govt. bonds which was completed by October 2020.
According to Mr. Berendt, the decision was made after analyzing the situation in Belarus, particularly, the blatant violation of human rights and massive election fraud.
Jyske Invest. According to Rasmus Kristian Mogensen, head of the investment control department, Jyske Invest has divested from Belarusian government bonds in early 2021:
— We have made the decision based on the political and economic situation in Belarus. We have sold the bonds in the light of the difficult political situation in the country in the wake of the August 2020 election.
Sparinvest. Jorgen Sogaard-Andersen, the CEO of Sparinvest, told Berlingske that his company has sold off its last remaining Belarusian government bonds in early March 2021:
— At the moment, we do not possess any Belarusian state bonds. We have initiated the process of selling off our Belarusian Eurobond portfolio after the 2020 election and on last Thursday [the article was published on March 8] the sale has been finalized. We have made the decision due to our belief that the present situation in Belarus does not correspond to our investment principles.
The last Danish investment fund to divest from Belarusian bonds is Nordea. Previously, the company refrained from doing so, stating that investing in the country ‘brings it closer to Europe'.
However, on March 11, the fund’s leadership had changed their mind. Erik Pedersen, head of the sustainable investment department, has stated in a commentary to Børsen that the fund is selling off all its Belarusian state obligations valued at around 186 mln. Danish kroner (about € 30 mln.).
— The debate over the [Belarusian government bond] situation has left a strong impression on us. We have thought our investment decisions over once more and have come to the conclusion that we want nothing to do with these bonds from now on, — stated Pedersen. In his commentary he has also affirmed the ESG responsible investment principles which Nordea stands firmly by.
Jeppe Kofod, the Foreign Minister of Denmark, has praised the funds' decision:
— It is quite clear that with my decision not to recognize Lukashenka’s victory, I am also making a political statement that Denmark wants nothing to do with his regime and its crimes. I am glad that the statement has been heard by the investment fund community. I believe that we must keep working to prevent any aid, even accidental, from reaching Lukashenka.
On March 9, after the initial publications in Danish media, the AkademikerPensions pension fund has also declared its decision to halt further investment into Belarusian government bonds.
In its press release, the fund states, that from April 1 on, Belarus will be excluded from countries available for investment by AkademikerPensions.
— We only invest in countries which have a certain level of respect for human rights, says Jens Munk Holst, the fund’s director. It is reported that the fund intends to sell off its remaining Belarusian government bonds by the middle of April.
In the company’s press release, it is stated that the decision has been made based on the ‘systematic violations of human rights and complete ignorance of the basic right to expression of political will while peaceful protestors are being brutalized and persecuted at will'.
It is interesting to note that Ethiopia, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Djibouti, Mali, Pakistan and Zimbabwe are being excluded from AkademikerPensions' list of countries available for investment as well.
Head of the NAM Pavel Latushka has expressed his gratitude for the funds' decision and noted the contribution of the Belarusian diaspora of Denmark which proved critical to achieving this goal.
— We are very satisfied with the results of NAM’s campaign, particularly, in Denmark. And we would, first of all, like to thank the Belarusian diaspora for all their work.
For now, the Eurobonds have been sold to new owners but we hope that they will be cashed on maturity or possibly earlier. At the same time, we would like to warn the funds currently interested in purchasing Belarusian state bonds that this decision might result in financial as well as economical lossess.
The end owner of the bonds will only be able to cash the bonds through its ultimate owner, the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Belarus. Which is why it is better to do so now. Refusing to purchase said bonds on the secondary market is your best chance to aid democratic development in Belarus.
Recently, the National Anti-Crisis Management has reached out to the investment funds which have bought $1.2 bn. worth of Belarusian Eurobonds. The NACM believes, that the money received from the sale was used for further repression and persecution of the Belarusian people, not to finance the external debt as initially believed.
The NACM has contacted all investment funds which are known to be currently holding Belarusian bonds, the three investment banks which have posted the bonds as well as the International Monetary Fund (the IMF).
Besides breaking off any relations with the Lukashenka regime, the NACM suggests the international financial institutions to investigate the use of money received from the sale of Eurobonds. In addition, the NACM hopes that the IMF could publicly recognize the illegitimacy of Lukashenka and his government and investigate the actual conditions of the Belarusian economy.
The campaign launched by the NACM has been joined by the Belarusian diaspora in many different countries. Belarusians have written letters to investment funds and reached out to the official social media accounts of various companies to spread their message, as well as have held demonstrations next to corporate headquarters. For instance, the Belarusian diaspora in Italy has held demonstrations in 9 cities, namely, in Rome, Milano, Torino, Verona, Padua, Pavia, Trento, Benevento and Ferrara. Belarusians have protested next to the office of Assicurazioni Generali, an investment fund which has purchased Belarusian govt. bonds which have been posted in late June 2020.
Media of other countries have also reacted to NAM’s campaign since its inception:
Article on Belarusians’ protest
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