BlackRock Inc. has challenged Korea Electric Power Corp. over plans to invest in new coal-fired power plants in Vietnam and Indonesia.
The world’s top asset manager raised concerns over “several controversial coal projects” with a South Korean utility, including in meetings in the first quarter, it said in a report last month. BlackRock “contacted the CEO seeking a clear strategic rationale for its investments in coal energy,” it said, without naming the company.
Kepco, as the utility is known, confirmed Thursday that it received a letter from BlackRock, which it said requested fuller disclosure of its planned involvement in new coal-fired plants overseas.
Pressure has mounted on governments and companies to ditch coal-fired power amid increasingly dire warnings of climate change and the need to transition away from carbon-emitting fossil fuels, of which coal is the dirtiest.
BlackRock’s Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink in January pledged that the firm would make climate change a priority across its funds, becoming one of the highest-profile proponents for climate-friendly investing.
Kepco is seeking to buy a stake in the Vung Ang 2 project in Vietnam, the spokesman said Thursday. It also said in January that it’s pursuing involvement in the Java 9 & 10 coal-fired power projects in Indonesia.
The Korean utility rose as much as 1.4% in Seoul trading Friday, and was up 0.5% as of 1:35 p.m. local time, while the benchmark Kospi index was down 0.6%.
‘Escalated Our Concern’
BlackRock said in its Global Quarterly Stewardship Report that the South Korean company’s plans appear to contravene the utility’s energy transition commitments and are at odds with decisions by banks and other companies to exit the same projects.
BlackRock’s investment stewardship team “escalated our concern to the company’s CEO via a formal letter,” the report said. “It requests enhanced disclosure, including a clear strategic rationale justifying the company’s involvement.” The asset manager said it “could escalate our actions through votes in the future,” if the need arises. BlackRock declined to comment Thursday.
The Vung Ang 2 project in Vietnam has been a lightening rod for activists seeking to choke off international support and finance for coal projects. Its developer, Mitsubishi Corp., as well as other Japanese firms including the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Mizuho Financial Group Inc., have been regular targets of pressure campaigns.
Mitsubishi’s partner in the project, Hong Kong’s CLP Holdings Ltd., said in March that it’s withdrawing and that it sold 10% of the venture to an undisclosed buyer, leaving it with 40%. The plant, planned for Vietnam’s Ha Tinh province, has been on the drawing board since 2009 and is expected to require an investment of $2.19 billion, news website Vietnam Finance reported in August.