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Statoil-Hydro merger has political backing

Norway's Minister of Petroleum and Energy Einar Steensaes has no qualms about an eventual merger between Statoil and Norsk Hydro. The talks between the petroleum companies have quickly become a hot topic, and political opposition to the idea was not immediately obvious.

Norway's Minister of Petroleum and Energy Einar Steensaes has no qualms about an eventual merger between Statoil and Norsk Hydro. The talks between the petroleum companies have quickly become a hot topic, and political opposition to the idea was not immediately obvious.

The news that Statoil's acting CEO Inge K. Hansen had initiated talks with Hydro broke on Aftenposten's web site on Tuesday. Nothing has been decided but political opposition failed to surface.

Labor Party politician Sylvia Brustad said that their view on the matter was flexible, while the Conservatives said they were discussing the need for a large and effective industry player.

The Progress Party's Oeyvind Vaksdal said "it can be reasonable to assess the possibility of what can be achieved" and on the other side of the political scale, Socialist Left Party representative Hallgeir Langeland expressed personal support for the idea.

The companies renewed discussions about a possible merger on the initiative of Statoil's Inge K. Hansen, but have again decided to shelve the idea.

Aftenposten's sources claimed that the merger process would not be hasty. Statoil needs to find a new boss and Hydro will first complete plans to put its agricultural division Yara on the stock exchange.

Norsk Hydro will get a new board chairman this summer, when Jan Reinaas from Norske Skog takes over. Statoil board chairman Jannik Lindbaek would not comment on whether this occasion would mark a natural time to resume merger talks.

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