ANU sells shares in Metgasco

A GROUP of students was claiming victory on Tuesday after the Australian National University confirmed it had offloaded its remaining shares in gas mining company Metgasco.

Vice-Chancellor Ian Young informed ANU Environment Collective spokesman Tom Swann of the sale via email on Tuesday morning.

"I am informed by the ANU Investment Office that the university has now divested itself of all shares in Metgasco," Mr Young's email read.

APN Newsdesk sent a series of questions to ANU on Tuesday seeking confirmation of the divestment and answers to a number of other questions, including when the shares were sold and for how much.

The university's reply read: "ANU has previously indicated that it would divest itself of its shareholding in Metgasco in a measured manner. ANU has now sold down the balance of its holding in Metgasco and no longer has a financial exposure to the company. We will be making no further comment."

Mr Swann said the EC campaign to have ANU sell its shares in Metgasco began two years ago after the group was contacted by activists in areas where Metgasco was mining.

He welcomed ANU's decision to sell its remaining shares and had no doubt the EC campaign was a significant factor.

"I think it's unfortunate that the vice-chancellor has tried to pretend that the student pressure has had no part in it," Mr Swann said.

"Clearly, it's a student campaign that brought it to the attention of the media and the ANU community and clearly that's what convinced them to agree to divest and they ought to own that decision and recognise that the community doesn't think that the risks associated with this industry are appropriate for the ANU to be profiting from."

The university announced in October 2011 it would begin divesting its 4.21 million shares in Metgasco, which at the time had a share price of 48 cents.

Last month, with Metgasco's share price at 17 cents, the university told APN Newsdesk it still held 2.5 million shares.

An ANU spokeswoman said at the time the university would divest itself of its shareholding in Metgasco "in a measured manner as purchasers become available".

Just last week Metgasco's price slumped to 10 cents as investors rushed to dump shares as in the wake of the New South Wales Government's decision to impose tighter controls on coal seam gas mining.

Shares in Metgasco, which has several projects in northern NSW, were 10 cents when the market closed on Tuesday.

Mr Swann said the EC was broadening its campaign to pressure ANU to make all of its investments "fossil free".

He recently lodged a Freedom of Information request with ANU seeking details about the university's financial interest in companies which "generate revenue from oil, coal, gas ... or uranium". ANU sought an extension earlier this month owing to the "complexity" of the request.

"We welcome the Vice-Chancellor's leadership on this issue, and hope it will set a precedent, at ANU and around Australia," he said.

"The VC's experience with Metgasco shows fossil fuels are a bad investment - environmentally damaging and financially irresponsible.

"This year we've decided that it's really important to broaden the focus to fossil fuels in general. The same thing that happened with Metgasco is going to happen with all fossil fuel investments around the world in the coming decade and we think it's really important the ANU shows some moral leadership on this and gets ahead of the curve."

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