More than a year after the start of its armed offensive in Ukraine, Russia remains visible in the portfolio of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ). After the sweep promised last year, she saw the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, put a spoke in her wheels.
The woolen stocking of Quebecers was able to liquidate some of its investments in the country of Vladimir Poutine. For example, he is no longer a shareholder in energy giant Gazprom, Sberbank of Russia and VTB Bank – companies targeted by Canadian sanctions.
However, as of December 31, 2022, the Caisse still owned shares in at least six companies blacklisted by Canada, La Presse was able to see by reading the institution’s annual report, which has just been published. released. These titles are worth approximately 93 million, according to our calculations.
Across Russia, the Quebec manager of public and parapublic pension and insurance plans held shares in no less than 24 listed companies and two other private companies. The value of these investments was close to 305 million. However, this is only a small proportion compared to the net assets of the CDPQ, which is 402 billion.
“We were very proactive from the start of the conflict to divest ourselves of our positions,” said Caisse spokesperson Kate Monfette in an email. “However, we still have a few titles on the books, which are valued at zero, but we cannot sell them, among other things because of the ban on foreigners trading Russian titles. »
Ms. Monfette adds that these shares are not held directly by the largest institutional investor in the province, but through “indexing and external management strategies”.
It was a decision by the Russian president announced in August that visibly thwarted the plans of the CDPQ. In an attempt to curb the exodus of Western investors, Vladimir Putin signed a decree banning them from selling their stakes in anything revolving around the energy and banking sectors.
Russian companies and others close to the Putin regime began to be targeted by sanctions in 2014, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. These measures have been imposed by most Western countries, including Canada. They consist of freezing assets and prohibiting financial transactions.
However, there is no obligation to divest. The CDPQ was therefore not required to dispose of its interests. The woolen stocking of Quebecers had thus remained a shareholder in companies such as Gazprom, Sberbank of Russia and VTB Bank despite the sanctions. It was the armed conflict in Ukraine that changed things.
Lisa Baillargeon, full professor of accounting and governance at the School of Management Sciences of the University of Quebec in Montreal (ESG-UQAM), does not question the Caisse’s commitment. She believes that the institution was determined to keep its promise.
“I understand they’re under pressure,” she said. Sometimes we don’t go as fast as we want. But the strategy was in motion. Russia reacted in such a way as to block these strategies. The position of the Caisse in Russia is not worrying. »
Other pension plan managers had turned their backs more quickly on the Russian market. This is particularly the case of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, the largest institutional investor in the country with net assets of 536 billion as of December 31. In a 2014 interview with The Globe and Mail, NEB senior management said they were “allergic” to this market because of the climate of instability and questions about the country’s justice system.