Gulbenkian Foundation gets out of the oil business

oilrig2In a seismic shift in policy, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is selling its Partex oil and gas interests and is to invest in sustainable energy,  "in line with the international movement followed by other foundations.”

The Foundation owns 100% of Partex and is "currently in the process of negotiations with an interested group," to sell the oil company. 

Aiming to maintain the philanthropic activities of the institution, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation has been looking at selling Partex since last June and has been assessing potential buyers, finally selecting a Chinese company.

Today, a spokesman stated that the Foundation "has been considering the sale of investments in fossil fuels, taking into account a new energy matrix and its objectives for sustainability, in line with the international movement followed by other foundations,"  adding that the board, "recently received an offer to buy and is currently in the process of negotiations with the group concerned."

After a sale, the Foundation "guarantees the fulfillment of all the philanthropic activities that Calouste Gulbenkian wanted to see as perpetual and destined for the good of humanity."

The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation holds 100% of the share capital of Partex, a company headed by António Costa Silva.

The oil company was founded in 1938 by the British (from 1902) businessman and philanthropist of Armenian origin, Calouste Gulbenkian, whose sobriquet, ‘Mr 10%’ was apt, earing himself a fortune from dealings with the Iraq Petroleum Company, a producer that brought together the interests of BP, Shell, Total and Exxon Mobil.

It was the Iraq Petroleum Company that started the oil industry in the Middle East, joining together Iraq, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Oman as partners. Calouste Gulbenkian entered the Iraq Petroleum Company as an individual, but later created Participations and Explorations, aka ‘Partex,’ which in 1939 signed the first concession with Abu Dhabi and ended up owning 2% after partial nationalisation in 1971.

The Foundation’s current support of ecological marine-based initiatives such as the Gulbenkian Oceans Initiative and the Sustainable Seafood Coalition, always were at odds with the source of funding from oil profits.

Partex, whose holding company is registered in the Cayman Islands for tax purposes, remits 100% of its profits to the Caluoste Gulbenkian Foundation which studiously avoided the issue of turning the Algarve’s offshore into an oil production zone, in partnership with Spain's Repsol, and with attendant risks to the population, the economy and ecology of the region.

Algarvedailynews awaits with interest an answer to a question posed in 2013 to the head of corporate affairs at the Gulbenkian Foundation about  the conflict of interests between the foundation’s receipt of oil profits and its support of programmes such as the Ocean’s Initiative aiming to “improve scientific knowledge and public and political perception of the benefits of marine and coastal ecosystems.”

António Costa Silva of Partex said in November 2016, that oil drilling activity "is perfectly compatible with the environment and tourism development." "It is possible to reconcile the environment and tourism with the development of resources and this resource would be the first wave of development of marine resources in the country."  

Silva later eased off on his plans to drill off the Algarve coastline. Retreating in a huff, Silva said he did not feel welcome and had far better places to look for oil, places which would make him feel welcome.

This volte face may have disguised an emerging change of policy from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s board but Partex still exists and still holds offshore concession rights.

At the time of his death in 1955, Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian's fortune was estimated at between $280 million and $840 million. Undisclosed sums were willed in trust to his descendants; the remainder of his fortune and art collection were willed to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation established in 1956.

The Foundation soon will be able to hold its head high in this much-changed world, no longer tainted by its funding of ecological projects from the proceeds of an industry that spends much of its time destroying land and marine ecosystems.

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0 #2 Peter Booker 2018-02-03 10:06
Christian G´s last comment is spot on. By selling up, the Gulbenkian Foundation has effectively ducked the environmental issue, and like Pontius Pilate, it is washing its hands.
+1 #1 Christian G 2018-02-02 08:08
There is no conflict of interest between Gulbenkian‘s involvement in the oil business and their Oceans Initiative. The Oceans Initiative goals are the exploration and exploitation of marine based natural resources. Their latest dossier (2 November 2017) is headlined: ‘How much are the Oceans worth?’ It presents ‘the results of studies on the economic value of the benefits we derive from the sea’. The aims of the ‘Natural Capital Protocol’ introduced by the Oceans Initiative are: ‘reduce costs by realizing productivity and efficiency gains in the use and/or exploitation of resources; increase revenues by creating new business opportunities that integrate innovative and sustainable products and services; enhance brand image by increased transparency; attract customers by strengthening their trust with the company’ and so on. It is just the next step in the ongoing privatisation of common natural wealth.
If Gulbenkian were serious about the protection of the sea in an environmental sense, they would buy out their partner, Repsol, and renegotiate the terms of their concession in such a way that would allow them to create a marine park in the concession area.

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