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Sudan divestment activists target Buffett, Fidelity

Sudan divestment activists target Buffett, Fidelity

A Sudan divestment campaign heads to America's heartland as activists take their cause this weekend to Omaha, Nebraska, home to billionaire Warren Buffett and his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. company.
With their "Get out of PetroChina" billboards dotting the Nebraska city's landscape, activists Saturday will try to persuade the renowned investor and Berkshire's shareholders to unload 2.3 million shares in the Chinese oil company because of its business ties in war-torn Sudan.
"(Our presence) in Omaha will really help Warren Buffett and other investors in Berkshire Hathaway grasp the enormity of the situation," David Rubenstein, executive director of the Save Darfur Coalition, said Tuesday during a telephone news conference. "We can only believe he is not getting good advice from his advisers."
Adam Sterling, director of the Sudan Divestment Task Force and a student leader in California's divestment drive last year, said Buffett has invited activists to participate in a PetroChina divestment debate during Berkshire's annual meeting Saturday in Omaha.
Sterling and other activists say PetroChina's parent company, government-owned China National Petroleum Corp., is the largest investor in Sudan's growing oil industry. Sudan is the leading supplier of oil to China.
At the same time, activists are mounting a similar media blitz to prod mutual fund giant Fidelity Investments to dump millions it has invested in PetroChina.
"Americans don't want their savings and pension funds invested in companies that help fund the genocide in Darfur," said Eric Cohen, chairman of Fidelity Out of Sudan. At the end of 2006, Fidelity was PetroChina's largest U.S. investor.
Fidelity spokeswoman Anne Crowley said she could not comment on the company's PetroChina investments but said the activists' information on Fidelity's holdings is four months old. She said Fidelity isn't violating any U.S. laws and the government should decide what foreign investments are appropriate.
"Any suggestion that Fidelity supports or is funding the tragedy in Sudan is patently false," said Crowley.
For more than two years, student, religious and humanitarian groups have pushed for economic pressure on the Sudanese government, which is accused of arming an Arab militia blamed for attacking civilians and non-Arab tribes in the country's Darfur region. The violence has left more than 200,000 dead and 2.5 million homeless since 2003.
The grassroots campaign to urge divestment has attracted support from politicians and Hollywood celebrities. In the past year, activists have made significant inroads. California and nine other states have passed divestment measures. More than 40 universities, including Stanford, the University of California and Harvard, also have imposed similar bans.
Major European companies, such as Germany's Siemens AG Germany and the United Kingdom's Rolls-Royce Group PLC, have announced plans to pull out of Sudan.
An endorsement from Buffett could give activists a huge boost in the investment community.
"He's in a strategically very powerful position of leverage," actress Mia Farrow said Tuesday. "His withdrawal would be ... powerful."
In previous interviews, Buffett has defended the investment, saying China National operates in Sudan and that PetroChina shouldn't be held accountable for actions of its corporate parent. Berkshire officials also argue that a pullout by China National could put more oil assets in the hands of the Sudanese government.


Updated : 2021-04-23 02:07 GMT+08:00