Alaska News

As other investors leave Russia, Alaska has no plans to sell its $210 million in assets

Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation Board of Trustees

JUNEAU — Neither the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. nor the Alaska Department of Revenue are planning to sell their investments in Russia, state and corporate officials said Monday. Their statements came as global investors and multiple American states announced plans to pull money out of Russia to punish the country for its invasion of Ukraine.

The Permanent Fund Corp. did not provide precise figures but said 0.2% of the $81.5 billion fund is invested in Russia. Based on the fund’s reported value on Friday, that amounts to $163 million, with about three-quarters of that figure invested in Russian stocks.

Alaska also has about $50.5 billion in other investment accounts. About $50 million of that money is invested in Russia. The Revenue department, like the Permanent Fund Corp., does not have plans to sell, officials there said.

The Permanent Fund’s biggest Russian stock holdings are in the state-owned gas company Gazprom, the private oil and gas company Lukoil, and the state bank, Sberbank, according to a September listing. The remainder of the corporation’s holdings in Russia include corporate and governmental bonds and a small private-equity investment worth less than $1 million and not listed on public markets.

“APFC is not contemplating a divestment strategy at this time. We are closely monitoring the situation; and as always, will strive to do what is in the best interest of the Alaska Permanent Fund,” said Paulyn Swanson, the corporation’s communications officer.

[BP says it will ‘exit’ its $14 billion stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft over Kremlin invasion of Ukraine]

Officials at Norway’s $1.35 trillion sovereign wealth fund said on Monday that they will freeze the fund’s Russian investments and sell them as soon as possible. As of the end of 2020, the fund held about $3.3 billion in Russian investments. BP and Shell have announced that they will pull out of deals involving Russian oil and gas companies.

State law and policy requires the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. to make decisions based only on financial gain or loss. Corporation board chairman Craig Richards said divesting from Russia for political reasons would likely require an act of the Alaska Legislature, an executive order from Gov. Mike Dunleavy, or a regulatory change by the Alaska Department of Revenue.

“Do we disengage from Russia is really a political decision. But we’re not policymakers, we’re not elected, we’re not confirmed, we don’t answer to the people in that way,” Richards said of the corporation’s board of trustees.

“So I think the board looks for direction on these types of issues to those that are policymakers,” he said.

No legislation has been proposed in the Alaska House or Senate to require divestment from Russia. The deadline for individual lawmakers to propose a bill was last week.

Legislators in several states, including Georgia and Pennsylvania, introduced divestment legislation on Monday, according to the Associated Press. The governors of Washington, Colorado and New York issued executive orders requiring divestment.

Democratic state senators here said that they intend to send a letters to Permanent Fund officials and to the governor asking them to sell Alaskan investments in Russia.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, said he believes the state is required to divest, based on the language of a 1986 ballot measure that requires the state to do what it can to prevent nuclear war.

Given the threats of Russian President Vladimir Putin to use nuclear weapons, “now is the time to divest from companies that are threatening our very existence,” Begich said.

Dunleavy announced no action on Monday, and an official said none was planned.

“The administration does not plan to take any action at this time, but will be monitoring the situation closely,” said Jeff Turner, the governor’s deputy communications director.

“Investment policy for the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation is determined by an independent Board of Trustees who are responsible for the fund’s investment strategy,” he said.

“The Alaska Legislature, which includes the Senate minority, has the ability to draft legislation requiring APFC and other state agencies to divest from a specific country,” Turner said.

James Brooks

James Brooks was a Juneau-based reporter for the ADN from 2018 to May 2022.

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