French insurer Axa is saying good-bye to its tobacco investment, the "Financial Times" has reported. The company's move provides encouragement for anti-smoking campaigners, the newspaper argued in its Monday edition.
The "Financial Times" reported Monday Axa was to stub out its tobacco investment, saying that its former activities in the sector had increasingly been clashing with its position and image as a health insurer.
The company now owns 1.8 billion ($2 billion) in tobacco shares and bonds, the newspaper points out. It said AXA was willing to sell the shares in question immediately, while the bonds would be left to expire.
"With this divestment from tobacco, we're doing our share to support the efforts of governments around the world," Axa's future CEO Thomas Buberl said in a statement.
Putting health first
"The decision has a cost for us, but the case for divestment is clear: the human cost of tobacco is tragic; the economic cost is huge," Buberl added.
The head of Axa's corporate responsibility unit, Alice Steenland, spoke of a "sunset industry," emphasizing that "more and more countries are going to put controls on it."
She said the insurer was particularly concerned about the growth of smoking in emerging markets, with the rate of tobacco consumption in Nigeria, for example, expected to quadruple in 25 years.
Axa made it clear that its divestment policy did not affect tobacco funds it was managing on behalf of third parties.
hg/jd (FT, AFP)