Press release | Date: 22/11/2019 | Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries
The new ownership policy facilitates value creation, today and in future. In the policy, the Government has developed and clarified its expectations of the companies, for example as regards transparency, diversity and responsible business conduct.
Norwegian Government has today presented the report to the Storting (white paper) ‘The state’s direct ownership of companies – sustainable value creation’. The previous report to the Storting was published in 2014.
‘The companies manage substantial assets on behalf of society and future generations. We therefore have to manage the state’s ownership in a professional and sustainable manner,’ says Minister of Trade and Industry Torbjørn Røe Isaksen (Con.).
The state’s direct ownership in Norway is substantial. The state is an owner of 73 companies and owns about one-third of the assets on Oslo Stock Exchange. In the 24 companies where the state’s goal is the highest possible return over time, the value of the state’s ownership interests amounted to NOK 833 billion at the end of 2018. In addition, the state has ownership interests in nearly 50 companies for which it has various public policy goals. Many of the companies pay substantial annual dividends to the state.
A responsible owner that creates added value
Norway aims to lead the field internationally in its exercise of state ownership. The ownership policy has been clarified and further developed. The state’s expectations of the companies are based on international best practice, and cover all elements of the companies’ corporate governance that are expected to affect long-term value creation. The Government expects increased transparency, among other things about executive pay, the companies’ tax policy and diversity.
‘The Government's expectations of transparency have increased, especially as regards executive pay and tax. The Government is also clear about how the state follows up the companies, especially if they fail to deliver on our expectations’, says the Minister.
The framework continues to apply
The framework for the state’s exercise of ownership has remained unchanged since the early 2000s, and has enjoyed broad political support. The framework provides predictability for the companies and the capital market, thereby enabling the companies to further develop and create added value.
‘The state’s exercise of ownership is based on internationally recognised principles for corporate governance and has played a crucial role in the success of Norwegian state ownership. We need to maintain a clear division of roles between the owner and the board of directors,’ says Røe Isaksen.
Will reduce state ownership over time
Although the state will continue to be a substantial owner going forward, the Government believes that private ownership should be the main rule in Norwegian business and industry. In order to diversify ownership, the Government aims to reduce the state’s ownership over time.
‘In cases where the state no longer has any rationale for being an owner, the Government’s policy is to reduce its ownership interest or sell the company as a whole, when the time is right. The state’s ownership will only be reduced if this is seen as financially favourable for the state. For several companies there are still good reasons for continued state ownership. The state’s ownership will therefore remain substantial also in future,’ says Røe Isaksen.
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 73 companies. Twenty-four 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 45 companies, the state has various public policy goals.
- The companies are placed in three categories:
Category 1 comprises the companies where the state’s goal is the highest possible return over time and where the state no longer has any other rationale for its ownership.
Category 2 comprises the companies where the state’s goal is the highest possible return over time and where the state has a specific rationale for its ownership.
Category 3 comprises the companies for which the state’s goal is the most efficient possible attainment of public policy goals.
Four companies are not categorised.
The authorisations the Storting has granted the Government to reduce the state’s ownership, in whole or in part, in Ambita, Baneservice, Entra and Mesta, will remain in place. In the national budget for 2020, the Government has also asked the Storting to authorise the full or partial sale, or dissolution, of GIEK Kredittforsikring.