Majority backs partial privatisation

March 29, 2001, 10:30 CEST

Statoil's chief executive Olav Fjell is positive to the compromise reached by a majority of the Norwegian Storting (parliament) on 28 March, which opens the way for a partial privatisation of Statoil.

The parties behind this deal are the Conservatives, the Christian People’s Party, the Liberals and the ruling Labour Party.

They have agreed on the main points in the government Bill on ownership of Statoil and future management of the state’s direct financial interest (SDFI).

“We’re gratified that a broad majority is in favour of our stock market listing,” says Mr Fjell. “This will give us increased strength and leverage.”

He is also pleased that the Storting committee is keeping to the timetable by submitting its recommendation on 4 April.

Submitted last December, this proposal is currently under consideration by the Storting’s standing committee on energy and the environment.

The compromise involves selling up to a third of Statoil’s shares to private investors, with 15-25 per cent being put on offer initially in a stock market listing. In addition, the parties have agreed that Statoil will be given the opportunity to acquire 15 per cent of the SDFI’s assets. Norsk Hydro and other companies can buy up to 6.5 per cent.

Mr Fjell adds that the group is on schedule with the preparations which will be needed if the government resolves to make an initial public offering (IPO) of Statoil shares in June.

“We’re also looking forward to clarifying which SDFI assets we’ll be allowed to buy. These will strengthen us substantially, allowing us to develop our core areas off Norway and reinforce our gas position.”

Mr Fjell takes note that a majority of the Storting has also accepted the government’s proposal to establish a separate gas transport company.

“I register that the Storting has opted not to follow our advice on this issue,” he says.

Statoil’s role will now be to contribute to the continued efficiency of Norwegian gas transport, Mr Fjell emphasises.

As a co-owner, it will make a commitment to further development of the treatment facilities at Kårstø north of Stavanger as a cornerstone in Norway’s gas exports.