OSLO- Norway's $1.3 trillion sovereign wealth fund will get rid of more companies from its portfolio if it considers them too risky, its new chief executive Nicolai Tangen said on Thursday.
Tangen took the helm of the fund on Sept. 1 and the move would mark a departure as it has until now broadly tracked a global company reference index set by the finance ministry.
While the fund will continue to track the index, the fund's management, Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), should be more selective when choosing stocks, Tangen said.
"(NBIM) can do more on negative selection, get rid of things which are bad," Tangen, a former hedge fund manager, told a digital seminar.
The shift in approach comes as the government plans to cut the fund's company reference index by 25% to 30% to improve the fund's follow-up of firms.
The move reflects the growing awareness among international investors about risk in the environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) field.
"The amazing example last year ... is how we were pretty much out of Wirecard when that thing exploded and it saved the fund an enormous amount of money," Tangen told the seminar, which was published on the fund's website.
"So through forensic accounting, through people who are specialists in discovering fraud, I think we can do more," he said.
The fund divested from the collapsed German payment services firm in 2020, fund data showed, while at the end of 2019 it had a 1.14% stake in the firm worth $170 million. Wirecard filed for insolvency last year owing creditors almost $4 billion.
The fund currently holds stakes in about 9,100 companies. The finance ministry has proposed that its reference index be cut to 6,600 companies from 8,800 now, leading to a reduction in the number of companies it invests in over time.
The government rules in a minority and so needs the approval of parliament to pass its proposals.
(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche; Editing by David Clarke) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; +47 21 04 05 53; Reuters Messaging: Twitter handle: @gfouche))