Harvard Ups PetroChina
The Harvard Crimson
By DANIEL J. HEMEL
February 15, 2005
Harvard nearly doubled its number of shares
in oil stock PetroChina during the last quarter of 2004, despite
widespread concern surrounding the Beijing-based company's role
in funding the ongoing genocide in Sudan.
More than 80 faculty members and nearly
600 students have signed an online petition calling on the University
to divest from PetroChina. But in the final three months of last
year, Harvard purchased 34,500 additional shares of the company's
stock, according to reports filed yesterday with the U.S. Securities
and Exchange Commission.
The acquisitions come on top of the 32,700
shares of PetroChina stock that the University owned at the end
of September. In total, Harvard's holdings in the company are
now valued at an estimated $3.97 million.
Harvard's move to increase its PetroChina
holdings does not signal that the University's top brass has definitively
rejected the divestment petition. "No final decision has
yet been reached," University President Lawrence H. Summers
said last night.
A subcommittee of the Harvard Corporation,
the University's highest governing body, met last week to consider
whether Harvard should maintain its ties to PetroChina, Summers
The sub-group, known as the Corporation
Committee on Shareholder Responsibility, held a joint session
with the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility, a 12-member
group of students, faculty and alumni who issue recommendations
on University investment policy.
Summers said the two committees are "looking
into" the divestment proposal, but critics of the University's
links to PetroChina demand swifter action.
In a statement issued last night, the two
students who organized the divestment petition, Manav K. Bhatnagar
'06 and Benjamin B. Collins '06 of Eliot House, said that "there
is no excuse for Harvard's continued investment in PetroChina."
"This is an embarassment to the Harvard
community," they said in the statement.
U.S. companies have been prohibited from
investing in Sudan since President Clinton imposed economic sanctions
against the Khartoum regime in November 1997.
PetroChina officials have assured investors
that the firm does not deal directly with Sudan. But the firm
is a spin-off of the China National Petroleum Company (CNPC),
which has invested more than $1 billion in a joint venture with
the government of Sudan to boost that country's oil production.
CNPC still controls 90 percent of PetroChina, and a restructuring
plan unveiled late last year would move all of CNPC's overseas
assets-including its Sudan stake-directly into PetroChina's hands.
Jesse A. Sage '98, associate director of
the American Anti-Slavery Group, which is coordinating divestment
efforts nationally, wrote in an e-mail yesterday that "there's
no reason Harvard investments should support corporations that
exploit the current loophole that allows multinationals to partner
with a genocidal regime and access American wallets."
The Sudanese government has backed Arab
militiamen in the western region of Darfur, where more than 70,000
people have died and millions have lost their homes in a two-year
conflict. The U.S. charges that the Sudanese regime is guilty
of genocide, although U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan-who holds
an honorary law degree from Harvard-disputes that claim.
After Bhatnagar and Collins launched a
divestment petition in November, students at several local schools-including
Boston College, Boston University, Emerson College, and Tufts-followed
But the efforts have had little effect
on PetroChina's share price, which reached $59.02 on the New York
Stock Exchange yesterday-its highest close in more than a year.
Staff writer Daniel J. Hemel can be
reached at email@example.com.