BlackRock denies politics played role in Africa-Israel sale

BlackRock spokeswoman Emma Philips: As a trustee of investors' money, we always act for the good of our investors.

UK investment firm BlackRock, part of the global investment bank BlackRock Inc. (NYSE: BLK) denied reports by Norwegian news service "Norwatch" that it sold its stake in Africa-Israel Investments Ltd. (TASE:AFIL; Pink Sheets:AFIVY) because of the company's activity in the West Bank. "Norwatch" claimed that BlackRock was at one time the second largest shareholder in Africa-Israel, and sold its stake because the company was building homes in Maaleh Adumim, east of Jerusalem.

BlackRock spokeswoman Emma Philips told "Globes" today, "These reports are not true. As a trustee of investors' money, we always act for the good of our investors, and in compliance with laws and regulations, as we have always done."

"Norwatch" claimed that Norwegian insurance company Storebrand, Norwegian-Swedish bank Skandiabanken, and the Norwegian-Danish Danica Pensjon contacted about the investment, and that BlackRock divested from Africa-Israel sometime between June and August.

"Norwatch" quotes Skandiabanken information manager Johnny Anderson as saying, “We have received confirmation from BlackRock that Africa-Israel Investments no longer is part of their portfolio." The confirmation was received on August 18. He added, "The way I interpret the e-mail I have received, Africa-Israel is no longer to be found in any of BlackRock’s funds."

BlackRock did not deny that it had sold its shares in Africa-Israel, controlled by chairman Lev Leviev, but rejected the reasons attributed to the sale. When asked if Anderson's comment was incorrect, and whether BlackRock still owned shares in Africa-Israel, Philips said that the bank did not comment on its holdings. However, she emphasized that the denial referred to "Norwatch's" report about the reasons for the sale.

"Our policy is not to comment about specific shares or securities," said Philips. "Our denial refers to the misleading reasons presented in the article about our decision to sell our holding in the share."

"Norwatch" also speculated whether the Norwegian Government Pension Fund, which owns €760,000 worth of shares in both Africa-Israel and its subsidiary, Africa-Israel Properties Ltd. (TASE: AFPR) would divest its holding.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 26, 2009

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2009

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