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Kerry to divest some holdings if confirmed as secretary of state

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) shake hands after the president announced Kerry's nomination as Secretary of S
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) shake hands after the president announced Kerry's nomination as Secretary of S

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senator John Kerry and his wife intend to divest holdings in dozens of companies, including oil company Exxon Mobil Corp and drug maker Pfizer Inc, to avoid conflicts of interest if he is confirmed as U.S. secretary of state.

The plan was disclosed in an agreement posted online by the Office of Government Ethics, a U.S. government agency.

Kerry, who is awaiting the Senate's approval to replace Hillary Clinton as America's top diplomat, is one of the richest senators, largely due to the fortune of his second wife, heiress and philanthropist Teresa Heinz Kerry.

The investments Kerry and his wife have agreed to divest include holdings in telecommunications giant AT&T Inc, manufacturer 3M Co, insurer Metlife Inc, defense contractor Raytheon Co, payroll firm Paychex Inc, Tractor Supply Co, Coca-Cola Co, Microsoft Corp, several international banks and private equity funds and H.J. Heinz Co.

John Kerry's investments are held through three family trusts. His wife's investments are held through trusts as well as custodial accounts with Mellon Bank, according to the ethics agreement letter.

Kerry, a five-term Massachusetts senator, promised that he would divest the holdings within 90 days of his confirmation, according to a January 8 letter he sent to a State Department ethics official.

Kerry's net worth was estimated in 2011 to be between $184.3 million and $287.7 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics' analysis of personal finance disclosures.

"I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter that has a direct and predictable effect on my financial interests ... unless I first obtain a written waiver," Kerry wrote in the letter.

Kerry also pledged to resign from his positions with the non-profit American Security Project and Harvard University if he is confirmed as secretary of state.

(Reporting by Andrew Quinn and Alina Selyukh; Editing by Paul Simao)