Pressemelding | Dato: 19.04.2002
Contacts: State Secretary Oluf Ulseth, telephone +47 22 24 01 02
Director General Reier Søberg, telephone +47 22 24 65 12
White Paper on reduced and improved State ownership
The Norwegian Government’s White Paper titled "Reduced and Improved State ownership" was presented to the Storting (the Norwegian Parliament) today. The White Paper discusses general issues concerning the extensive State ownership in the Norwegian economy, and measures to strengthen private ownership. It reviews the State’s role as an owner and a regulatory authority, and considers specific proposals directed at improving the organisation and administration of State ownership. In the White Paper, the Government examines the need for State ownership in some 40 individual companies.
At its formation in the autumn of 2001 the coalition government emphasised the need to examine State ownership in trade and industry, and to define the intention behind the ownership in each company. The Government today forwarded to the Storting a White Paper with a comprehensive strategy for State ownership in trade and industry. The objective is reduced and improved State ownership.
- Ownership is important to the creation of value in an economy, says Mr. Ansgar Gabrielsen, Minister of Trade and Industry. - Needs for readjustment and restructuring arise as consequences of market globalisation within most industries. Financial strength is no longer sufficient. Competence and efficient decision-making processes are increasingly important to the positive and profitable development of companies. Private owners will on the whole be in a better position to meet these requirements than the State. State ownership should in the future be limited to companies of an administrative nature, or to companies in which the ownership is clearly and transparently politically motivated.
The White Paper reports on the conditions for private ownership in Norway, and points out the importance of access to capital for Norwegian mature and entreprenurial companies alike. By international standards, Norway has relatively few and small private owners. Following the initial public offering of Telenor and Statoil central and local authorities jointly own about 40 percent of the capital of the companies listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange. Private ownership could be stimulated in Norway through several measures, including a reduction of the wealth tax. The Government has appointed a commission to consider changes in the taxation of income and wealth, and a Pensions Commission evaluates different alternatives to fund pensions. The Government will improve conditions so as to enhance private savings, and will at a later stage revert to the Storting with specific proposals on these issues.
The White Paper points out that the Government has several responsibilities and roles. It is important to ensure a clear and transparent distinction between the State’s role as a regulatory authority, and as an owner. The White Paper discusses the need to improve the administration of State ownership. The Government has considered, but decided not to propose a separate holding company for government holdings, outside the Ministries .
It is important to the profitability and industrial development of the companies concerned, and for the value of the State’s shares, that the State develops a more professional administration of its holdings in individual companies. The White Paper emphasises the importance of communicating the corporate governance principles that the State will pursue in the implementation of its ownership policies. Principles such as equal treatment of shareholders, transparency, and distinct distribution of roles between the companies’ management, the Board of Directors and the owners, are important.
The reasons behind and the need for State ownership will vary over time. The White Paper contains, for each company, an assessment in principle of the purpose and the need for having the State as an owner. Some main points in the company assessments are:
- There are no longer sufficient arguments to maintain state ownership in Raufoss ASA (50,27%), Grødegaard AS (100%), Nammo (45%), Entra Eiendom (100%), Kommunalbanken (80%), Stor-Oslo Lokaltrafikk as (33,33%) and NOAH (70,89%). The Government will therefore be open to terminate State ownership in these companies.
- The Government will be open to reduce State ownership in Norsk Hydro ASA (43,82%) and Kongsberg Gruppen (50.0%) to 34%. No changes are proposed in the current mandates from the Storting on a minimum State ownership stake of 34% in Telenor ASA (77,68%) and Den norske Bank (47,3%), and to accept private ownership in Statoil ASA (81.8%) of up to 1/3 of the company’s value.
- The Government wishes to reorganise Statkraft SF (100%) into a joint stock company. The Government wants to enable the company to develop into a strong operator in the Nordic energy markets, but does not assume that the State shall contribute additional capital to the company. The Government will be open to industrial opportunities in which the State no longer retains its sole ownership.
- The Government is open to up to 49 per cent private participation in the subsidiary that operates the coalmine in Svea (100%). The State will remain sole owner of the companies on Svalbard - Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani AS and Kings Bay AS.
- The planned merger between Cermaq ASA (79,4%) and Fjord Seafood ASA may result in a State holding of between 35 and 40 per cent of the shares in the new company. Cermaq’s subsidiary Cernova, with cereal and milling activities, will be separated as an independent company prior to the merger. The Government will be open to reduce the State’s ownership stake in this company down towards 34 per cent, as well.
- Following decisions in the Storting, the State is in the process of selling all its shares in A/S Olivin (50,99%), Arcus Gruppen ASA (34%) and Moxy Trucks AS (49%). SND Invest AS (100%) will be transferred from the SND to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, which will initiate a process to sell the company.
- The Government proposes no changes in state ownership in NSB BA (100%), Posten Norge BA (100%) and BaneTele AS (100%). These companies will remain wholly owned by the state. No change is planned for the State’s current ownership stake in SAS AB (14.3%).
The Government is of the opinion that changes in the State’s shareholdings must take place in a manner that retains share values, and contributes to a positive industrial development for the companies involved. Both time schedules and specific ways of implementing the reductions in State ownership will thus be subject to further assessment. Several alternative methods will be considered, including industrial sales, reduction of the State’s shareholding through mergers, acquisitions or new capital issues, or regular equity sales of listed shares.