Australias Future Fund has extinguished its tobacco industry stakes. Announced in February, the move had been widely anticipated since David Gonski, chairman of the A$82.4 billion ($85.5 billion) sovereign wealth funds board of guardians, said last October that the board would review these holdings.
The $222 million divestment may carry extra symbolic weight given that Australia recently became the first country to enforce strict plain-packaging laws for cigarettes and other tobacco products. Although the Future Fund held 14 individual positions in tobacco producers, including Altria, Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco and Lorillard, they added up to just 0.3 percent of its assets.
The news pleased the Australian Greens, who waged a publicity campaign last year to push the fund to sell its tobacco-related investments. Most people didnt even know about them, says Senator Richard Di Natale, the partys health spokesman. Although the Future Fund makes investment decisions irrespective of Australian politics, its board considered tobaccos very particular characteristics, including its damaging health effects, Gonski explained.