Facing sustained pressure to divest its holdings in companies supporting the goverment of Sudan, Fidelity Investments appears to have reduced its stake in PetroChina, the No. 1 target of the divestment campaign, by 91%.
In a regulatory filing this week, Fidelity said it held 420,916 American depositary receipts of PetroChina, compared with 4.5 million ADRs Dec. 31.
The trouble is, Fidelity won’t say why, or even confirm that it has sold most of its PetroChina shares, or disclose whether it holds other shares in overseas accounts, or talk about its future intentions. Nevertheless, this appears to be a victory for the activists who have been bringing pressure on Fidelity since early this year.
Leaders of the divestment movement came close to declaring victory. David Rubenstein of the Save Darfur Coalition said:
While questions remain about Fidelityâ€™s Hong Kong holdings â€“ a matter Fidelity must publicly resolve â€“ the company appears to be making a genuine effort to financially separate from PetroChina. The Save Darfur Coalition believes this is a positive step.
Credit for the apparent victory goes a slew of volunteer groups, including Fidelity Out of Sudan, the Sudan Divestment Task Force, the Save Darfur Coalition and their celebrity allies, including Mia Farrow and Steven Spielberg, who have raised the issue noisily with the Chinese.
“Fidelity appears to be listening to the concerns of American investors who do not want their money tied to investments that help support the genocide in Darfur,” said Eric Cohen, a leader of Fidelity Out of Sudan. But on a cautionary note, Cohen added:
“While we applaud Fidelity for taking what seems to be a positive step toward divestment from such companies, we have an incomplete picture because Fidelity has provided no information about its holdings of H shares on the Hong Kong exchange which represented the majority of its holdings in PetroChina. Investors should understand that Fidelity may be continuing to be a massive shareholder in PetroChina. Since Fidelity has made no statement or commitment regarding divestment from PetroChina, investors entrusting their money to Fidelity mutual funds continue to risk inadvertently investing in PetroChina and other companies helping to fund the genocide in Darfur.
In other words, until Fidelity becomes more transparent about its intentions, investors who care about the ongoing genocide in Darfur should be wary. It’s time to Fidelity to come clean about its intentions here.