(Bloomberg) -- AIA Group Ltd. has divested billions of dollars of investments in coal mining and coal-fired power businesses as pressure grows on financial firms to cut ties with the sector.
The insurance firm completed the entire sale of directly-managed equity and fixed income portfolios in October, seven years ahead of its original target, according to a statement. It said it won’t make new investments in businesses directly involved in coal mining or generating electricity from coal.
“The area that we can make the biggest contribution and the biggest impact is really through our investments,” Chief Executive Officer Lee Yuan Siong said in an interview in Hong Kong. Through a “programmed approach, we’re able to completely divest from close to $10 billion of assets in these companies.”
The shirt sponsor of Tottenham Hotspur had come under pressure to sell its investments in coal. It now joins a growing number of firms and institutions, including Harvard University and Allianz Global Investors in curtailing holdings. According to research by the Insure Our Future campaign, 65 insurers with combined assets of $12 trillion have so far divested from coal.
Lee said it was more difficult to divest the bonds and loans as such investments are usually held to maturity and less liquid. The insurer, which manages over $200 billion of assets, is also committing to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
AIA buys green bonds and also has an exclusion list to make sure it’s not investing in industries that are big pollutants, said Lee. It engages with companies it invests in to reduce their carbon footprint.
Over the last few years, the “carbon intensity” of AIA’s equity holdings has declined, said Lee.
AIA’s operational emissions will be overseen by a new Climate and Net-Zero Steering Committee that reports directly to Lee. AIA’s chief investment officer will have direct oversight of the integration of the net-zero commitment into its portfolio engagement process.
Away from its divestment, AIA, which once counted on Chinese travelers for as much as half of its Hong Kong insurance sales, has seen its business hurt by travel restrictions.
“We are all looking forward to when the border can open up so that people can travel more freely,” said Lee. “In the meantime, what we have been doing is to encourage our agents to focus on the Hong Kong domestic business.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.