Church aims to offload Wonga shares


Archbishop of Canterbury Christmas Day sermon

The Church of England is still working out how to dispose of its indirect stake in Wonga, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said - in spite of its high profile opposition to pay day lenders.

The archbishop told Radio 4's Today programme a review had been completed into the shares in Wonga held at "three stages removed" by the Church Commissioners.

"They are working out how they can dispose of those shares without disposing of millions and millions of pounds of investment at a loss because they have a responsibility to pensioners," the Most Rev Welby said.

The archbishop's remarks come after it was revealed earlier this year that the Church of England has £75,000 indirectly invested in Wonga out of investments totalling £5.2 billion.

The revelation came after the archbishop received widespread publicity when he told Errol Damelin, Wonga chief executive, that the Church of England wanted to drive the pay day lenders out of business through the creation of credit unions.

The Church of England, which claims to have a strong ethical investment policy that explicitly bans companies involved in pay day lending, had invested in Accel Partners, the US venture capital firm that led Wonga's 2009 fundraising.

The Most Rev Welby said in July that he was irritated and embarrassed that Church funds were being funnelled into Wonga and said he would seek to remedy the situation.

"They shouldn't be investing in Wonga. We don't think that's a good thing," he said.

He added: "What's clear is that... this is an embarrassment. We think that the pay day lenders charge vastly excessive amounts for the loans they make, that there is a totally inadequate range of choice for consumers in deprived areas."