Daily Management Review

French insurer Axa publicly refused its tobacco assets


One of the world's largest insurance companies - French Axa - announced its intention to sell all of its shares and bonds of tobacco companies totaling € 1.7 billion, thus fully stop investing in the tobacco industry. This should please the fighters with tobacco companies. Just now, the tobacco industry once again is becoming attractive for large investors. Recall that that they fled earlier in the wake of problems that authorities and active fighters against smoking brought to the tobacco companies. Axa’s decision will not bring serious problems to the company, but will rather strengthen its corporate image.

Christos Vittoratos
Christos Vittoratos
French insurance group Axa, one of the largest in the world, announced on Monday that it is going to epilogize all investment activities related to the tobacco industry. The company owns shares and bonds of large tobacco companies totaling € 1.7 billion. According to Head of Axa, the tobacco companies' shares will be sold immediately, while the debts would remain with Axa until their expiry.

"With this divestiture, we are making a contribution and provide support to governments around the world, - said the company’s head Thomas Buberl.- This decision is bearing some losses for us, but the loss of life due to tobacco are tragic and economic losses are enormous." According Axa’s Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer Alice Steenland, there are definite economic reasons in the decision on the investments’ end. "This industry is already on the decline. More and more countries are going to tighten control over it, "- she said. And indeed, CEO’s words about any serious losses in connection with the sale of shares do not look so convincing, given that the tobacco companies' shares have risen steadily in recent years. 

The decision was announced just one year after another Axa’s loud statement. The company aired its commitment to bring ethical standards to their investment policy. The insurer sold its shares in the companies which in one way or another were connected with the production or the use of coal. Thus, Axa became the first major company that went to it.

As for tobacco investments, the French insurers are not pioneers here. Earlier, the Norwegian Government Pension Fund, along with two large US pension fund Calpers and Calstrs, refused tobacco investments. However, according to Axa itself, the company is the first commercial investor to get rid of tobacco assets. The more so that investors previously left the tobacco industry now seems to regret their decision. For example, Calpers by hearsay plans to re-enter the tobacco industry. According to the pension fund’s own estimate, the divestment in 2000 was worth $ 3 billion in the form of lost revenue.

source: ft.com