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Church fund ditches stake in oil giant BP

THE SUNDAY TIMES

Church fund ditches stake in oil giant BP

Jamie Nimmo: 24 Jan 2021. Page 2, Business Section.

The Church of England has sold its stake in BP, even as the oil giant moves to end its reliance on fossil fuels under new boss Bernard Looney.

The Church Commissioners, which manages the Church’s £8.7bn fund, is understood to have offloaded its stake in the FTSE 100 stalwart last year.

It is a significant move because the Church is the country’s most high-profile ethical investor and has been pushing BP to commit to cutting its carbon footprint to ret zero by 2050.

The Church welcomed Looney’s bold plan last February when BP became the first of the “supermajors” to make the commitment.

The Church likes to hold investments to influence decisions. It is unclear how the stake was, but BP was among the commissioners’ largest 20 holdings for 2019, according to the latest annual report released last summer.

Sources said the sale was a commercial decision made by an external fund manager and was not related to BP’s green credentials.

The commissioners is chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, a former oil executive at Enterprise Oil.

The sale comes after the decision last year by the Methodist Church to dump its stake in BP. The church said that BP had failed to provide details of how it would meet its net-zero target.

Looney, 50, is likely to face renewed pressure at BP’s annual results next month to dump its 20% stake in the state-controlled Russian oil giant Rosneft, which is profitable but is not included as part of its net-zero goals.

Helen Wiggs, head of corporate climate at lobby group Share Action, said: “If BP wants investors to take its climate commitments seriously, it needs to do much more to encourage Rosneft to wind down its exploration activity or, if this proves impossible, to offload the holding.”

BP and the Church of England declined to comment.

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