The leaders of the ruling Labour Party have settled on a policy favouring the partial privatisation of Statoil, the state-owned oil company, but the vague language of their compromise left doubts about how far such privatisation could go.
Those attending the party's annual convention had been split on the subject, with some members opposing any steps toward privatisation. In the end, a majority supported private ownership of up to a third of Statoil's shares. But instead of specifically authorising the public trading of shares now owned by the state, the resolution said additional private capital would be acquired through strategic alliances. Despite differing interpretations of the resolution, Norwegian Oil and Energy Minister Olav Axelsen insisted the language was flexible enough to permit listing Statoil on the stock exchange in addition to accepting direct investment from other energy companies. The Labour Party resolution - which requires approval by the Parliament to become law - also called for transferring to Statoil a "limited" portion of the petroleum reserves now owned directly by the state. Those state-owned reserves, called the State's Direct Financial Interest, are five times greater than Statoil's reserves.