Norwegian wealth fund says Italy's Eni and Saipem have reduced corruption risk

MILAN, March 6 (Reuters) - Norwegian wealth fund Norges Bank Investment Management has removed Italian energy groups Eni and Saipem from observation after finding that both have made progress in tackling corruption risks.

In 2017 the $1 trillion fund decided to raise the issue of corruption risk here with Eni and Saipem as part of its active ownership efforts and a recommendation was made by its ethics council to place the companies under observation.

But in its “responsible investment” report this week, the fund noted positive measures by the companies.

“Norges Bank has therefore decided to discontinue this particular dialogue on corruption risk with Eni and Saipem under the guidelines for observation and exclusion of companies,” it said in the report.

It added, however, that it would continue to raise relevant topics with the companies as part of its ordinary ownership dialogue.

Eni, which jointly controls Saipem with state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, is on trial in Milan over allegations that it bought a Nigeria oilfield in 2011 knowing most of the purchase price would go to agents and middlemen in bribes.

Eni has denied wrongdoing.

In January an Italian appeals court acquitted Saipem and Eni of corruption in a long-running trial over bribery allegations in Algeria. (Reporting by Stephen Jewkes Editing by David Goodman)