At the very start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said that the Scandinavian country was freezing investment in the Government Pension Fund in Russia immediately. He also stated that Norway was starting a process of withdrawing the so-called ‘oil fund’ from the country.
A statement from Norway’s Minister of Finance Trygve Slagsvold Vedum followed and in it, the Minister said that the country invested around $2.8 billion in the Russian market at the turn of the year. As sanctions were imposed on Russia, the government informed Norges Bank to immediately freeze all funds in Russia.
He added that the sale of Norway’s Russian assets is underway with the endgame being the Oil Fund completely pulling out of the Russian market.
“Norway wants to withdraw and does not want to be part of the market in Russia, and we will sell out over time. This is because we want to give a clear message that the type of abuse [in Ukraine] is not acceptable,” Vedum said.
Earlier this week, the CEO of the Norwegian Wealth Fund – also known as the Oil Fund – said that the Russian assets which are part of the fund have become worthless following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The attempt to sell the assets is underway as well.
The fund has around $3.0 billion invested in Russia which is around 0.2 percent of its total value. The wealth fund CEO Nicolai Tangen said that their exact value is not certain due to the market in Russia now being volatile and the Moscow bourse being closed since Monday this week. But Tangen did tell Reuters that the assets were practically written off.
According to the news outlet, the fund’s Russian assets consist of shares in 51 companies at the end of 2021. The most valuable stakes were in Gazprom, Sberbank, and Lukoil. The three account for two-thirds of the total. It is worth reminding that Gazprom and Sberbank, along with many of their subsidiaries, were among the first companies to be hit by U.S. sanctions.
As the stock markets where these assets are listed are either closed or imposed bans on Russian stocks it is unknown when the sale will begin or what will it look like, according to Tangen.
To better understand the Norwegian Wealth Fund a.k.a. the Oil Fund it must be said that it is investing Norway’s revenues from oil and gas production. It is one of the world’s largest investors, investing its cash in equities, bonds, real estate, and renewable energy projects.
The fund’s value was around $1.37 trillion at the end of last year which means that every Norwegian man, woman, and child can be covered by $257,000 from the fund. This announcement by the Oil Fund comes soon after Norwegian oil major Equinor decided to exit Russia. Equinor was followed by many other energy majors like BP, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and TotalEnergies, among others.