Troll group seeks Dutch guarantee

October 29, 1998, 00:00 CET

A halt to further asset disposals by Dutch power company SEP has been demand by Norway's Troll group.

The licence, with Statoil as operator, applied to the court in Arnheim last week for an injunction against Samenwerkende Elektriciteits-Produktiebedrijven until the latter provides guarantees that existing gas sales contracts can be fulfilled.

This action has been sparked by the industrial liberalisation process currently underway in the Netherlands in the wake of the European Union's electricity directive and new national legislation.

The EU aims to open the electricity market in member countries to free competition. Plans now call for changes to SEP's functions, including a possible demerger of the Dutch power transmission network.

This company has hitherto occupied a very central place in the Dutch energy supply sector, with responsibility for purchasing power station fuel and a monopoly on the country's electricity imports and exports.

It and the Troll group have entered a two-week period of exchanging information before the Norwegian licence decides whether its interests are being satisfactorily protected. If not, a legal judgement will be sought. The court must determine whether the restructuring of SEP can continue.

The Dutch company is committed to buying two billion cubic metres of gas annually from the Troll group in 1996-2015. Demerging assets from SEP could ultimately give the company problems in fulfilling this contract.

Legal action by the Norwegian licence - which embraces Shell, Norsk Hydro, Conoco, Saga, Total and Elf as well as Statoil - seeks to ensure that a restructuring of the Dutch company will not undermine its financial position.