Saturday, 3 October 2009

Norwegian activism, in the UK

Norges Bank Investment Management is the investment arm of the giant Norwegian pension fund. Yesterday it held a briefing about its plans for stepping up shareholder engagement. There's a release about its plans in respect of some US holding here, and a report about its support for annual election of directors here.

NBIM has made some interesting comments in response to the Walker Review, in addition to their support for annual director elections, they are also interested in how companies address the need to balance remuneration policy between the needs of directors and those of employees. I think they could do something genuinely original here, since most investors don't look at the employee angle. They are also sceptical about 'say on pay' partly because they believe it almost attempts to devolve the issue to shareholders, and thus can act to legitimise high pay.

Why should the UK pay any attention to a Norwegian investor? Well, as I mentioned, it is huge. In fact it estimates it owns about 1.75% of UK equities. That will give it a bigger slug in British companies than many domestic asset managers. And judging by what they are saying they could be much more serious about ownership than some of our homegrown investors.

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