AXA Group, the world's largest insurer, will cease investing in tobacco stocks, and divest itself of all current holdings, worth over €1.7 billion.
As a result, the firm will sell its €184 million tobacco equity holdings, and €1.6 billion bond holdings – around 0.6% of its total corporate bond portfolio.
In a statement, the firm said tobacco investments were at odds with its position as a “responsible” health insurer and investor, given smoking kills an average six million people per annum.
It added it was supporting government efforts to reduce the number of smokers worldwide. AXA is the first insurer in Europe to pull out of the sector, and the group hopes other institutional investors would follow its lead.
The group’s new chief executive, Thomas Buberl, said the decision also made good business sense, as fewer illnesses and deaths from smoking-related diseases would deliver savings for its life and health insurance divisions.
However, AXA Investment Managers will continue to invest in the tobacco industry, in line with client demand. The division state its responsible investment funds already exclude tobacco, and it manages a number of segregated mandates that similarly omit such stocks.
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