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Lundin stakes sold over rights probe rejection

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Lundin stakes sold over rights probe rejection
Egbert Wasselink holds a report he authored detailing alleged Lundin abuses
10:06 CEST+02:00
Swedish insurance giant Folksam as well as the Handels trade union are dumping their shares in Lundin Petroleum over the oil company's refusal to agree to an independent probe of suspected human rights violations committed in connection with its operations in Sudan and Ethiopia.

Lundin Petroleum has previously been accused of having committed human rights violations in connection with its oil drilling activities in Sudan and Ethiopia between 1997 and 2003.

"We think that we tried in every way available to us to influence Lundin's board and management to clean up its past. At the annual meeting about a month ago they chose not to listen to the 22 percent who voted for our proposal for an independent investigation," Carina Lundberg Markow, head of responsible ownership at Folksam, told the TT news agency.

Folksam called for an independent investigation of Lundin Petroleum's actions in Sudan and Ethiopia at the oil company's May 10th annual meeting after a preliminary criminal probe had been launched into Lundin's operations in east Africa.

But the Lundin board, which continues to deny the accusations of criminal wrongdoing, flatly rejected the proposal.

At the general meeting, 78 percent of shareholders voted against launching an independent probe, while 22 percent voted in favour of Folksam's proposal.

"So now our collective assessment is that the company looks okay from a sustainability perspective and has a good risk structure. But in light of their refusal to deal with the past, we've decided to back out as owners," said Lundberg Markow.

Folksam owns 1.2 percent or about about 3.8 billion shares of Lundin. Calculated at Wednesday's closing share price of 130 kronor ($17.90), Folksam's stake has an overall value of 490 million kronor.

Lundberg Markow added that she was uncertain whether Folksam's decision to sell its stake in Lundin would have any effect on the Swedish oil firm.

"It's hard to say, but if they are going to be the oil company of the Swedish people, they are going to lose out on a number of indirect owners," she said.

She was also hopeful that any new owners that would take over Folksam's stake in Lundin would continue to pursue the issues championed by the Swedish insurance company.

"It's very possible. And that's a dilemma for us, which is why we've tried to stay on as owners as long as we could. When the last active owners have sold, then there won't be any left who can place demands. But we've found that we can get any further," said Lundberg Markow.

Following Wednesday's announcement by Folksam, the Handels retail trade union association said on Thursday it too would sell off it's Lundin ownership stake, estimated to be worth about 3 million kronor.

"As soon as we learned that Folksam was selling its shares, we decided to sell ours," Lars-Anders Häggström, chair of Handels, told the organization's Handelsnytt newspaper.

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