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Why ESG is Gaining Traction Among Institutional Investors

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Whether it is called sustainable investing or responsible investing, this concept of allocating capital that creates value for both the investor and society as a whole, has achieved traction among various institutional stakeholders in recent years. Commonly referred to as ESG investing (environmental, social and governance), a number of institutional investors are participating in the movement such as the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. In May, Australia’s Future Fund announced that it hired Joel Posters to head its ESG program. Already, the Future Fund is prohibited from investing in companies such as General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Singapore Technologies Engineering.

Moving beyond the screening process and usage of responsible investing principles, some institutional investors have hired ESG specialists to incorporate agreed factors into the decision-making process.

First Generation of ESG Strategy is Avoidance

Historically, application of ESG was conducted through a stock filtration process. Leading the early movements of responsible investing, pensions and church endowments, that focused on ESG, would screen out companies that were involved with areas such as gambling, human rights violations, defense companies and tobacco growers. Sovereign wealth funds like Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global and the Future Fund have adopted similar screening measures. In January 2014, Dutch pension juggernaut ABP let go of its investment in the Tokyo Electric Power Company, saying in a press release that, “During and after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, the Japanese company structurally violated our standards [of responsible investing].”

According to ABP’s website, the pension giant sees itself as a long-term investor that views sustainable economic growth and ESG issues as key factors in investment analysis. As of June 1, 2014, the ABP excluded government bond investments from Somalia, Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Libya and Eritrea.

Integration of ESG Factors in the Decision-Making Process

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Mergermarket Gets Ready to be Sold

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Private equity firm BC Partners hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to advise on the sales of Acuris. Acuris is a collection of financial news and data sites, which includes Mergermarket, Dealreporter, and Debtwire. In 2017, BC Partners sold around a 30% stake in GIC Private Limited.

Before the rebranding to Acuris, Mergermarket was part of The Financial Times Group until 2013 when it was sold off to BC Partners.

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Why Japan Post Sees Promise in Aflac

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Aflac Inc. is an American insurance company founded in 1955. The company is the biggest provider of supplemental insurance in the United States. Aflac also has major operations in Japan.

In December 2018, Japan Post Holdings (JPHLF) signaled it was spending US$ 2.64 billion for a 7-8 % stake in Aflac. The goal is that, in four years time, Aflac will become an affiliate of Japan Post. Japan Post hopes to accomplish this by becoming the largest voting shareholder of the company. The world’s 13th largest company, with 400,000 employees, Japan Post needs to expand to chase further growth, mainly because Japan Post expects the postal business to decline. Diversification is seen as the optimal route to long term stability for the holding company. Japan’s economy is worrying. Japan’s aging population means that many insurance companies are facing a shrinking customer base, Japan Post settled on a plan to expand overseas.

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RDIF and Development Agency of Serbia Agree to Explore Joint Investments

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The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and the Development Agency of Serbia, also known as Razvojna agencija Srbije, reached an agreement to work together to identify attractive investment projects to strengthen bilateral economic ties and increase investment flows between Russia and Serbia. Russian capital and businesses are keen on investing in Serbia.

In addition, the two countries signed an agreement to cooperate on civil nuclear energy, according to state-owned Russian reactor builder Rosatom (Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation). Rosatom continues to expand it business of nuclear cooperation deals in a wide number of countries.

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