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Magazine: Finland’s state pension agency stops investing in tobacco industry

Keva had been investing nearly 100 million euros in the tobacco industry annually for years, Suomen Kuvalehti reports.

Veden täyttämä, tupakannatsoja täynnä oleva tuhkakuppi kuluneella puupöydällä.
Image: Marjukka Talvitie / Yle

Following years of criticism from the medical sector and cancer groups, Finnish state pension agency Keva said that it has stopped investing in the tobacco industry, according to weekly Suomen Kuvalehti.

The magazine reports Keva sold off its tobacco shares and divested the remainder of its holdings in the industry over the Midsummer holiday.

Keva is Finland's state pension agency, which is in charge of the pensions of public sector workers, including those employed by the state, municipalities and the state church.

At the end of May Suomen Kuvalehti carried out a survey of the state pension fund agency's investments. At the time Keva representatives said the agency's tobacco investments were negligible as they amounted to a small fraction of the entirety of their investments.

According to Keva's interim report from January-March of this year, the agency's investments had a market value of 51.2 billion euros, compared to 48.3 billion euros in 2017.

Keva: Part of ongoing process

But Suomen Kuvalehti found that Keva's tobacco holdings were not found to be insignificant.

A check of Keva's financial statements from last year showed the agency had invested 53 million euros in Swedish Match, a Stockholm-based firm that makes snuff and chewing tobacco products, 22.5 million euros in British American Tobacco and six million euros invested in Imperial Brands, which owns the cigarette brand Winston and Golden Virginia tobacco, among others.

Some 4,000 people die due to tobacco-related illnesses in Finland every year. In 2016, Parliament ratified the Tobacco Act with the aim of ending the use of tobacco and other nicotine products in Finland by 2030.

Keva said that it mainly decided to shed itself of tobacco investments because of weakened markets, not because the agency had suddenly changed course. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health's ban on state agencies investing in the tobacco industry likely played a role in their decision, as well.

"We had already started to reduce - and did reduce - our tobacco investments earlier, that is why this is not a change in our [investment] guidelines," Keva's CEO Timo Kietäväinen told Suomen Kuvalehti.

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