The $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund of Norway may sell off all of its shares in oil producers.
The move is a shot across the bow for the oil industry. A $1 trillion fund, built on oil itself, now sees the future of oil as too risky.
Norway’s sovereign wealth fund is not getting out of the oil business entirely. The government has only recommended exiting oil and gas exploration and production companies (i.e., upstream producers). The reason why the fund wants to pursue divestment is that it views the long-term oil market as volatile, unpredictable, and at this point, vulnerable to permanently low prices. “The goal is to make our collective wealth less vulnerable to a lasting fall in oil prices,” Norway’s finance minister, Siv Jensen, said. The fund currently holds about $37 billion in oil and gas stocks.
Based on that logic, the government wants to avoid the exposure to producers, since they will be the companies most impacted by changes in oil prices.
But the divestment is also one of the most powerful symbols yet regarding the potential for peak oil demand. The notion of permanently low oil prices is predicated on a peak and decline in consumption. And if a $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund views oil as inherently risky going forward, other investors could begin to fret. It’s worth noting that oil and gas stocks fellimmediately after the announcement.
On the other hand, the selloff could also be viewed in the narrow interests of Norway itself. The sovereign wealth fund was built by oil revenues, so the divestment is a bit ironic. Critics might point out that it is a bit rich for a country that has been, and still is, funded by oil revenues to be taking such a stand on the future of the oil business.
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