New report to the Storting on state ownership

The Norwegian Government has today presented the ownership-report to the Storting (white paper) A greener and more active state ownership – The state’s direct ownership of companies. The previous report to the Storting was published in 2019.

In Norway, the state’s direct ownership of companies is substantial and comprises of companies where the state’s ownership is managed directly by a ministry. The state owns 70 companies managed by 12 different ministries. At year-end 2021, the value of the state’s direct ownership was estimated to be NOK 1,179 billion. Of this, the value of companies listed on Oslo Stock Exchange accounted for NOK 844 billion of the total value, corresponding to about one-fifth of the total assets listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange. The state holds shares directly in eight listed companies.

In the new white paper, the Government further develops its policy and strengthen the state’s expectations of the companies. The state will also more actively exercise its ownership role and thus contribute to accelerate the green transition.

An English version of the white paper will be published when the translation is completed.

In the following, some of the key elements of the new white paper are summarised:

Strengthened expectations

The Government further develops and strengthens the state’s expectations of the companies. In particular, this applies to the expectations on climate, nature, risk management, transparency and reporting, working conditions and remuneration of senior executives. By defining clear expectations of the companies through the white paper on ownership policy, the state wishes to be a more active owner to contribute to attaining the state’s goal as an owner.

Climate, nature and ecosystems

The state expects the companies to set targets and implement measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short and long term in line with the Paris Agreement, and to report on target achievement. When available, the state expects the targets to be science-based.

The Government also introduces new expectations of the companies related to nature and ecosystems. The state expects the companies to set targets and implement measures to reduce the negative impact, and to increase the positive impact, on nature and ecosystems, and to report on target achievement.

Remuneration of senior executives

The state expects that the remuneration of senior executives is competitive, but not market-leading, and is set with due regard to the principle of moderation. Furthermore, the state expects that the companies will disclose an explanation if salary adjustments for senior executives exceeds the adjustments for the company’s employees.

The Government’s view is that fixed salary shall be the primary component of a remuneration scheme. The expectation of a maximum achievable bonus for companies where the state’s goal is the highest possible return over time in a sustainable manner (category 1) will therefore be reduced from 50 to 25 per cent of fixed salary in The State's Guidelines for the Remuneration of Senior Executives in Companies with State Ownership.

For companies where the state seeks sustainable and the most efficient possible attainment of public policy goals (category 2) it can be particularly demanding to find good criteria that reflect the company's goals and strategies. Therefore, the state will implement an expectation in The State's Guidelines for the Remuneration of Senior Executives in Companies with State Ownership that companies in category 2 do not use separate bonus schemes for senior executives.  

The framework continues to apply

The Government will pursue a responsible ownership-policy based on the key elements of the framework for the state’s exercise of ownership, of which there has been broad political consensus since the early 2000s. This has provided predictability for the companies and the capital market, thereby enabling the companies to develop and create value.

The state’s exercise of ownership is based on the division of roles and responsibilities between the owner, the board of directors and the general manager as set out in company law, and on generally recognised principles and standards for corporate governance.

In line with good and responsible private owners the state will actively exercise its ownership-role within the framework.

Facts – The Norwegian state as an owner

  • Since 2002, a report to the Storting (white paper) on the state’s overall direct ownership has been presented in each parliamentary session.
  • The report to the Storting sets out the Government’s policy for why the state is an owner, what the state owns and how the state exercises its ownership. 
  • The state is a substantial owner in Norway, with direct ownership interests in 70 companies. 21 companies primarily operate in competition with others, and the state’s goal as an owner of these companies is the highest possible return over time in a sustainable manner. In 46 companies, the state has various public policy goals.
  • The companies are placed in two categories:
    • Category 1 comprises the companies where the state’s goal is the highest possible return over time in a sustainable manner.
    • Category 2 comprises the companies for which the state’s goal is sustainable and the most efficient possible attainment of public policy goals.
    • Three companies are not categorised.
  • In the national budget for 2022, the Government has asked the Storting to authorise a full or partial sale of Akastor ASA and Aker Solutions ASA.