TIAA-CREF divests stake in ONGC, Asian energy firms for ties with Sudan

New York-based fund house, TIAA-CREF has become the first large US fund complex to divest stakes in a group of Asian energy companies over human rights concerns in Sudan.

The fund house revealed that it had sold shares of China's PetroChina Co Ltd, and Sinopec, CNPC Hong Kong and India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) totalling about $60 million.

Though the stakes sold represent just a fraction of TIAA-CREF's assets under management, which stood at $402 billion at the end of September, and a small percentage of the oil companies' market capitalisation, according to analysts, the move marks a milestone for rights activism.

TIAA-CREF provides financial services to nonprofits including hospitals and universities.

Human rights activist groups have so far largely failed to line up support from the influential fund industry for their social agenda.

Analysts say the move could exert pressure on the companies over their business ties to the government in Sudan, which is has been accused of war crimes.