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Norway oil fund's coal exposure bigger than claimed: environment groups

[OSLO] Norway's US$860 billion sovereign wealth fund, the world's biggest, has more exposure to coal than it said earlier and should sell out, three environmental groups said, potentially re-igniting calls for the fund to revamp its portfolio.

The fund had investments worth 82 billion crowns at the start of the year in companies that are either major producers or consumers of coal, and the investment rose in 2013, contrary to the fund's claims that coal exposure was falling, Germany's Urgewald, Greenpeace and Norway's Framtiden said on Tuesday.

Norway's opposition Labour party last year proposed banning the fund from investing in coal and was close to winning a majority. It backed off when the government agreed to appoint experts to review the fund's investments.

The fund said only 2.6 billion crowns (US$380 million) were in coal assets at the start of 2014.

The environmental groups argued that the fund excludes companies like iron ore-focused BHP Billiton , also one of the world's biggest coal producers, or Brazil's Vale , which is making major coal investments.

The fund also classified Germany's RWE as a utility even though it is a major coal producer and consumer, the groups said in a report. "From a climate perspective, we felt it was necessary to not just use a business percentage as a cut-off point, but to also use absolute volumes," Urgewald biologist Heffa Schuecking told Reuters. "Any company that mines so much coal that it would generate more CO2 emissions than all of Norway if burned, should be considered part of the coal sector." The fund said besides 2.6 billion invested in coal miners, it held 36.6 billion crowns in general mining groups and 77.3 billion crowns in utilities. "It is complex to define the coal exposure because many companies, to different extents, are exposed towards the coal sector," the fund said in a statement.

Norwegian pension fund KLP, which manages around US$70 billion, said last week it would sell about 500 million crowns of coal assets, quitting firms that derive at least 50 per cent of their revenues from coal-based activity.

The Labour Party, which tops opinion polls, favours a narrower definition of coal companies than the environmental groups. "We want the fund to pull out of pure coal companies," said Harald Jacobsen, a political advisor to Labour Party. "There is a question about where the limit lies."

REUTERS