Hard times for Caterpillar and Veolia
By Richard Silversein, Tikun Olam
June 28, 2012
Many of you are aware that [pension fund and life insurance] TIAA-CREF’s Social Choice portfolio ditched its $72-million investment in Caterpillar after the long-standing BDS campaign by Jewish Voice for Peace and other Israeli-Palestinian peace activists. The investment company’s action was precipitated by a downgrade of Caterpillar stock by a rating firm. Here is part of that company’s statement:
MSCI Inc. said Caterpillar was downgraded earlier this year because of several concerns, including a January labor dispute in Canada, environmental issues, employee safety and “an ongoing controversy associated with use of the company’s equipment in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
No more credible a Jewish news outlet than the Forward wrote this:
Controversy over the Israeli army’s use of Caterpillar Inc. bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes was a “key factor” in a corporate rating agency’s decision to drop the American manufacturer from its list of socially responsible companies.
Yet, StandWithUs is so eager to score points any which way it can against JVP that it will even stoop to outright lies. In its own press release it wrote:
According to MSCI officials, CAT was downgraded because of labor disputes at a CAT plant in Canada, not because of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
For anyone wishing to give SWU the benefit of the doubt, the above statement was released on June 22nd and MSCI released its own statement quoted above on June 25th. Even if SWU wasn’t lying outright, it was flat-out WRONG. I’m waiting for the SWU press release that “clarifies” their error and updates with the correct information. OK, start holding your breath…right…now…Now you may exhale. I didn’t expect you to suffocate waiting for SWU to correct the record.
This press release is also disingenuous (or just plain stupid) in claiming that the campaign targeting Caterpillar is hypocritical because the company also does business with Palestinians. Not even the point. Caterpillar isn’t selling Palestinians armored bulldozers used to destroy Palestinians homes as Israel is. No Palestinian Caterpillar killed Rachel Corrie. Further, though I don’t have exact figures, the level of Caterpillar’s business with the IDF is likely to dwarf its business in the Territories by a factor of ten or more.
Veolia Not Awarded Public Transport Tender in The Hague
By Al Haq
May 28, 2012
Al-Haq welcomes the decision of the Stadsregio Haaglanden of 23 May 2012 not to award Veolia Transport Nederland Openbaar Vervoer, a Dutch subsidiary of the Veolia Group, the public transport contract for all bus transportation in The Hague’s city district. The decision of the Dutch local authority for the urban district Haaglanden continues a trend of Veolia being excluded from contracts in other major urban centres across the globe, such as Victoria (Australia), London (United Kingdom), Stockholm (Sweden), Edinburgh (Scotland), Dublin (Ireland) and Bordeaux (France).
Earlier this month, prior to the Dutch local authority’s decision in the public transport tender, Al-Haq expressed its grave concern about the participation of Veolia Transport Nederland Openbaar Vervoer. In a press release issued on 2 May 2012, Al-Haq highlighted that Veolia’s participation in The Hague’s public transport tender was particularly problematic due to the city’s reputation as the “International City of Peace and Justice.”
Al-Haq’s recent advocacy efforts in The Hague are part of a long-term commitment to object to the activities of Veolia, a French multinational providing infrastructure through its subsidiaries to Israeli local authorities, for its involvement in the construction of the Jerusalem Light Railway linking West Jerusalem to illegal Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank. On 14 April 2010, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC Resolution 13/7) specifically declared the Jerusalem Light Railway Way to be “in clear breach of international law and relevant UN resolutions.” Such infrastructure contributes to Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem and of other parts of the West Bank. Veolia, operating through a network of wholly- or partially-owned subsidiaries, also provides other infrastructural support to Israeli authorities, including the operation of the Tovlan landfill site in the Jordan Valley. The site is used to dispose of waste collected from Israel and Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
In July 2011, the Stadsregio Arnhem Nijmegen, a Dutch local authority, decided to award a one-billion-Euro public transport concession to one of Veolia’s Dutch subsidiaries, Hermes. In response to the local authority’s decision, Al-Haq instructed Van den Biesen Boesveld advocates to submit a formal objection. In December 2011, the Commission of Appeals of the Stadsregio Arnhem Nijmegen denied Al-Haq standing and Al-Haq appealed the case before the Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal (College van Beroep voor het Bedrijfsleven). A decision on the case is still pending.
In a letter of 25 March 2008, Al-Haq urged Dutch financial service provider SNS Bank/Asset Management to exclude Veolia Environnement SA from SNS portfolios after SNS Bank’s subsidiary, ASN Bank, had already divested itself of its holdings in Veolia. In 2006, ASN Bank sold all its Veolia shares because of Veolia’s participation in the construction of the Jerusalem Light Railway stating that “the project is not in line with the United Nation’s demand to stop all support for Israel’s settlement activities.” Furthermore, in a letter dating back to August 2007, Al-Haq called on Veolia Environnement SA to discontinue its involvement in the Jerusalem Light Railway and other such infrastructure as part of Veolia’s commitment undertaken within the UN Global Compact and to halt its contribution to Israel’s ongoing violations of international law.
Al-Haq’s efforts directed at non-State actors are aimed at ensuring that they adhere to their ethical and legal commitment not to contribute themselves with Israel’s violations of international law, with a view to deterring further violations.
By Mark Wembridge and Rebecca Bream, Financial Times
June 28, 2012
Veolia Environnement has agreed to sell a 90 per cent stake in its UK water business for £1.1bn in the first step by the French utility to cut its debt burden through disposals.
Veolia’s regulated UK water business, which supplies parts of London and south-east England, has been acquired by Rift Acquisitions, a joint venture between Prudential and Morgan Stanley Infrastructure, the investment groups.
The deal values the business at £1.2bn, with the proceeds from the sale of Veolia’s 90 per cent stake going to pay down the group’s €15bn of net debt.
Veolia Water UK reported adjusted cash flow of £105.5m and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of £74.9m in 2011.
The sale is the latest in a string of deals in the UK water sector, following last year’s takeover of Northumbrian Water by Cheung Kong Infrastructure, controlled by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing.
There have also been a flurry of deals involving Kemble, the holding company for Thames Water, including investments by Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds, the BT Pension Fund and China Investment Corporation.
Pension funds and sovereign wealth funds are increasingly attracted to the water sector because amid market turmoil elsewhere it offers relatively predictable, long-term returns.
People close to the deal said there had been three serious bidders in the final stage of the auction and the sale had taken just five months, reflecting the strong investor demand for UK water assets.
Veolia, the world’s biggest water utility by sales, will keep a 10 per cent shareholding in the UK business for at least five years and also retain its local outsourcing division.
The sale is the first significant step in a two-year plan by Antoine Frérot, Veolia chairman and chief executive, to sell off €5bn of the group’s assets by the end of 2013 and withdraw from half of the 77 countries in which it operates.
“This first divestment shows that we are moving in the right direction regarding the implementation of our strategic plan and that the transformation of Veolia is progressing at a good pace,” said Mr Frérot.
He came under pressure this year to improve the performance of the struggling utility, fighting off an attempted coup orchestrated by Henri Proglio, boss of EDF and his predecessor at Veolia.
“We are keen to point out that Veolia Water will continue to have a significant presence in the UK in areas such as outsourced metering and billing, infrastructure management and water and waste treatment,” Veolia said.
The Paris-listed group, which has 300,000 employees and provides water services to 173m people, last year reported a net loss of €314m compared with a profit of €820m in 2010, mainly due to impairments and tough operating conditions.
Veolia shares – down 45 per cent over the past year – edged up 0.2 per cent to €10.22 on Thursday.
JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank advised Veolia, while Macquarie advised Rift Acquisitions.