Loans could fund SDFI share

November 9, 1999, 16:00 CET

The Norwegian government could secure an early increase in oil revenues if Statoil borrows in capital markets to part-finance a transfer of the state's direct financial interest (SDFI).

This possibility was outlined by chief executive Olav Fjell at a press lunch in Oslo today (9 November).

"If we fund a transfer of 30 per cent of the SDFI's assets in this way, the government could take NOK 50 billion out of the 'new' Statoil in advance without impairing our debt-equity ratio," he said.

Mr Fjell pointed to the debate under way in Norway since Statoil's directors recommended to the government almost three months ago that the group should take over all or a substantial part of the SDFI, followed by partial privatisation and a stock exchange listing.

He stressed that merging Statoil with the SDFI would generate higher state revenues than the present structure.

"We are not asking for charitable donations from the government," he said.

"The state owns both Statoil and the SDFI, and we're adamant that no other solution for the latter would give the government bigger revenues."

Mr Fjell also placed great emphasis on the opportunities now available to the authorities to create at least one sound Norwegian-based industrial company with the size required to succeed.

A "new" Statoil would still have the Norwegian continental shelf as its first priority, he said.

Operations in the European gas market are the second priority area where a merger of Statoil and the SDFI would be a good way to safeguard Norwegian interests in a liberalised market. At the same time, the group would continue its international exploration and production activities.

In response to press questions, Mr Fjell rejected the possibility that Statoil might propose a merger with Norsk Hydro as well as the SDFI.

He added, however, that this could naturally become a relevant solution in the very long term if the current process of consolidation in the industry continues.