Church of England's shareholdings dominated by banks, oil and mining companies

By staff writers
May 25, 2010

The Church of England’s investment portfolio continues to be dominated by banks, oil and mining companies, according to its latest annual report published today.

Despite criticism of bankers' bonuses by church leaders and a commitment for the church to go green, its top 20 share holdings at the end of 2009 included BP and Shell, mining companies Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Anglo American, banks HSBC and Barclays, as well as Nestle.

The Commissioners have a goal of maximising profit within an ‘ethical framework’.

The Church also has substantial holdings in commercial property including out of town shopping centres. It has sold a significant proportion of its social housing over the last 25 years, since it was commended in the 1988 Faith in the City report.

The Church’s annual report follows publication of the Church Commissioners' 2009 annual results on 28 April, when they announced that they had achieved a 15.6 per cent return on their investments during 2009 as the stockmarket recovered. The FTSE 100 recovered slightly more over the same period.

The Commissioners’ asset value grew to £4.8 billion at the end of 2009. The stockmarket has fallen 10 per cent since this calculation was made.

The value of the assets of the Church Commissioners ten years ago was £4.4 billion.

“The Church Commissioners have had a satisfactory first decade of the twenty-first century”, writes the First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith, in his introduction to the Report.

“The bottom line is that the Commissioners’ assets grew at an annual rate of 5.1 per cent, two percentage points better than the average fund and 2.4 per cent faster than inflation or, in other words, by 2.4 per cent per annum in real terms.”

The Church Commissioners say they do not see their work as part of the church’s mission, but something that funds it.

“Our task is to develop proposals on how best the Commissioners’ funds should be used to advance the Church’s mission”, Mr Whittam Smith concluded. “We don’t start with a clean sheet. Some distributions are determined by legislation. Other long established distributions are quite properly relied upon by recipients. Substantial sums are made available to poorer dioceses. Yet alongside these existing dispositions, new funding for mission is already bearing fruit.”

The Church of England’s Top 20 Shareholdings (figures in £millions)

HSBC (94.8)
BP (90.7)
Royal Dutch Shell (82.1)
Vodafone (69.1)
GlaxoSmithKline (54.8)
Rio Tinto (37.8)
BHP Billiton (34.4)
AstraZeneca (33.2)
Tesco (29.8)
BG (29.5)
Unilever (29.4)
Anglo American (28.9)
Standard Chartered (27.2)
Barclays (24.6)
Nestle (23.0)
Reckitt Benckiser (18.4)
Microsoft (17.8)
Xstrata (17.4)
Treasury Variable Rate Index Linked 2017 (17.0)
Wal-Mart Stores (14.0)

For more information see Ekklesia's report: "Where is the Church of England's heart invested?"

The Church Commissioners' Annual Report is available in full here:

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