According to City Wire:
Private equity investment trust HgCapital Trust was challenged over links to pariah state North Korea at an investor conference this week.
Ian Armitage, chairman of HgCapital, was asked to explain the trust’s links to talc mines in North Korea via its ownership of the Finnish firm Mondo Minerals.
Talc is a mineral used to make talcum powder but also for paper making, plastic, paint and many other industries. Mondo is the world’s second largest producer and, according to Armitage, the company sells 390,000 tonnes per year. Of this 1,500 tonnes comes from North Korea.
Mark Partington, an investment trust investor attending the conference held by Numis in London, said he was concerned that the mine may have used political prisoners in its labour force.
Armitage told Citywire that Mondo ‘didn’t own a mine in North Korea and had no hand at all in operating a mine but does get supplies from that mine through a joint venture that is part owned by the mine and part owned by Mondo.’ He said that Mondo was just a customer of the mine.
Armitage said that Mondo’s relationship with North Korea was in place when HgCapital bought Mondo and that US investors in the fund had been asked if they objected – at the time there was a ban on investing in ‘axis of evil’ states – and had allowed the deal to go ahead.
But he said: ‘In terms of what happens around the world it is not our job to make moral decisions about difficult countries.’ He added: ‘We are not the world’s policeman and we do not take responsibility for what suppliers (of Mondo) do.’
Mondo makes up about 5% of HgCapital Trust’s portfolio of companies and it is believed that HgCapital is looking to sell the firm – rumours which have not been denied by HgCapital Trust. The trust has a market value of £360 million and it is about 10% of HgCapital’s larger unlisted private equity fund.
The trust is in Citywire Selection, our shortlist of investment ideas, and its shares have returned 42% over the last three years while its net asset value (NAV) has risen by 22%. The shares are now trading around a 4% premium to NAV which means that the shares are worth more than the underlying companies owned by HgCapital.
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HgCapital challenged over North Korea links