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Norway Oil Fund Admits F1 Investment Was A ‘Mistake’

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OSLO: March 12, 2014 (AFP) – Norway’s $840-billion oil fund, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, admitted Tuesday that investing in graft-tainted Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One Group was a mistake.
In May, the fund paid $1.6 billion (1.15 billion euros) for a 21.3 percent share of the group in a consortium with two other funds, BlackRock and Waddell & Reed Financial.
“Yes, we have made a mistake,” fund director Yngve Slyngstad told the business daily Dagens Naeringsliv, suggesting the fund may try to offload its stake.
The Formula One Group, which manages the sport’s commercial rights, is run by Bernie Ecclestone, who is to go on trial on corruption charges in Munich on April 24.
The 83-year-old Briton was charged in July over a $44 million payment he made to former German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, which was linked to the sale of F1 championship rights in 2006.
The sovereign wealth fund invests surplus oil revenue to guarantee the continuation of Norway’s generous welfare benefits for future generations.
The purchase of a stake in Formula One was criticized by some politicians and by Norwegian media as falling short of the fund’s strict ethical rules.
“We have clearly indicated that we have a zero tolerance to corruption,” Slyngstad said.
“Obviously if this affair is not handled properly we would not want to be a shareholder. In that case we would not hold on to our shares.”
Started in the 1990s, the fund has shares in 8,213 companies around the world.
It recently obtained the right to invest in non-listed companies which are in the process of being listed as was the case with the Formula One Group until its application was suspended shortly after the Norwegian investment.
Slyngstad said that Ecclestone should be “suspended” from his post of director of the group during the period of the trial.

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