No smoking sign crop

AXA Group said it will shed all its €1.8bn investments in tobacco.

The global insurer said continued investment in tobacco was no longer compatible with its business as a provider of health insurance.

“As a responsible health insurer, the AXA Group has decided to divest its tobacco industry assets,” the company said, citing increasing deaths from cancer and heart disease, largely caused by smoking.

AXA will sell its €200m equity holdings in tobacco companies immediately; it will halt all new investments in tobacco industry corporate bonds and run off its existing tobacco industry bond holdings, currently valued at about €1.6bn.

“AXA’s role as a health insurer is changing,” the company said. “Prevention is becoming more important, with increased use of technology.”

“We strongly believe in the positive role insurance can play in society, and that insurers are part of the solution when it comes to health prevention to protect our clients. Hence it makes no sense for us to continue our investments within the tobacco industry,” said Thomas Buberl, deputy chief executive of AXA.

“This decision has a cost for us, but the case for divestment is clear,” he said.

“As a major investor and a leading health insurer, the AXA Group wants to be part of the solution, and our hope is that others in our industry will do the same.”