Tech billionaire says defence, nuclear power should be in investors’ sights

Anduril, which makes products such as anti-drone systems and autonomous vehicles, raised $US450 million at a $US4.6 billion valuation last year, though it is not profitable and Luckey will not reveal revenue figures.

He does take aim, though, at what he sees as gaps in environmental, social and governance (ESG) focused investors’ portfolios. The industry’s general aversion to the defence sector has come under increased scrutiny since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made clear that conflict between major powers, albeit via proxies, is not a thing of the past.

“I think it’s almost inarguable that if Ukraine would have had a stronger defence industry and defence base… they would have been able to deter Russia from taking this first step that’s probably going to lead into many, many other steps… That would have done a lot more good, certainly for Europe, than almost any of the ESG investments that they made individually.”

“So I actually see it as an opportunity. I would love to see ESG funds saying: ‘You know what, national security is actually a thing that is important and that is something that we are going to look into investing in specifically because it can deter these much worse scenarios’.”

The argument against investing in defence companies is that their products can just as easily be used any government, and even when they sell to established democracies, such firms have an incentive to encourage military adventurism.

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Luckey says which nations weapons firms sell to should be determined by elected leaders in their home countries. He defends the defence industry as one that creates a deterrent to conflict by making the cost too great to bear for the aggressor, though he concedes that assumes a degree of rationality from the antagonist.

But instead of supporting industries based on principle, he sees the ESG sector as one that champions causes such as the environment but will not back things such as nuclear power, which in his view, would be helpful.

“That’s my problem with ESG: people who are saying ‘I’m trying to save the environment’, but actually, they’re putting [money] into things that are environmentally related, but really, they’re just the things that they like for structural reasons or political reasons, or they’re friends with the right people.”

Then, with a laugh, he says, “I love the idea of ESG where they rank social good the way that I do, which is probably not surprising.”

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