Fidelity Cuts Stake In Chinese Oil Firm Amid Pressure On Darfur
By Mark Jewell, Associated Press
Gloucester Daily Times
Thursday, May 17, 2007
BOSTON - Fidelity Investments has sold most of its U.S. holdings in a Chinese firm linked to Sudan's flourishing oil industry.
Fidelity has been the target of activists seeking to curb investment in companies doing business in Sudan, the African nation accused by the U.S. government of complicity in genocide.
A regulatory filing Tuesday shows the nation's largest mutual fund company cut the stake in PetroChina Co. held by Fidelity's U.S. funds by 91 percent. If shares listed on a Hong Kong exchange are figured in, the overall reduction in Fidelity-affiliated companies' PetroChina stake amounts to 38 percent.
Fidelity held 420,916 American depositary receipts in PetroChina on the New York Stock Exchange as of March 31, down from 4.5 million receipts three months earlier, according to a quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Each American depositary receipt equals 100 shares, meaning Fidelity's U.S. investment in PetroChina was reduced from $634 million at the end of last year - when Fidelity held about 450 million NYSE-listed shares - to $49 million at the end of March.
A February filing by Fidelity parent firm FMR Corp. listed 1.065 billion in PetroChina shares as of Dec. 31. About half of those were held by Fidelity International Ltd., a Fidelity-affiliated company based in London that serves investors outside the U.S. and holds Hong Kong-listed shares.
Activists who equate investment in Sudan with support for genocide have targeted Boston-based Fidelity in recent months, saying it had been the largest owner of PetroChina stocks on the NYSE as of the end of last year.
The African nation's Darfur region has been torn by violence since 2003, with African tribal rebels targeted by militias that observers say are supported by the government. At least 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have become refugees.
Fidelity spokesman Vin Loporchio declined to say yesterday why the company reduced its PetroChina holdings.
"We don't as a general practice discuss individual securities or our buying or selling," Loporchio said. "Fidelity does not tell its fund managers how or when to buy or sell any given stock, and each fund manager makes that decision based on his or her assessment of the stock's value in their holdings."
A coalition that has led the campaign against Fidelity on Wednesday called the reduced stake in PetroChina a positive step.
"Following months of pressure by activists, Fidelity now appears to be taking steps to divest their significant PetroChina holdings," said David Rubenstein, executive director of the Save Darfur Coalition. "While questions remain about Fidelity's Hong Kong holdings - a matter Fidelity must publicly resolve - the company appears to be making a genuine effort to financially separate from PetroChina."
PetroChina, China's No. 1 oil producer, is a subsidiary of the China National Petroleum Company and a major investor in government-owned oil exploration in Sudan.
The Save Darfur Coalition also has urged Berkshire Hathaway Inc., led by investor Warren Buffett, to withdraw its financial interests in PetroChina.
On May 5, Berkshire Hathaway shareholders overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would have required the holding company to sell its 2.3 billion shares of PetroChina.
Dozens of U.S. universities and 10 states have decided to sell investments in companies doing business in Sudan, including PetroChina