Statoil prospers as politicians mull its future

Statoil, the state-owned oil company that is Norway's largest concern, is having the best year in its history as state authorities consider a partial privatisation. With revenues rocketing 66 percent in the first 9 months of 2000, Statoil was able to report after-tax earnings of USD 900 million (NOK 8.4 billion).

Most of the revenue came from operations on the Norwegian continental shelf, but Statoil CEO Olav Fjell said that in the future Statoil will shift focus to international production. Those interested in Statoil's future, however, were fixated on the ruling Labor Party's upcoming annual convention. Starting Thursday, party leaders will hash out their differences over the partial privatisation scheme. Company executives hope to list the company on the Oslo Stock Exchange in 2001, but many left-leaning political officials oppose relinquishing any state shares. Also under debate within Labor is what to do with oil reserves owned directly by the Norwegian state and currently managed by Statoil. One proposal that has generated widespread support is for the state to create a holding company to manage its untapped reserves as well as its remaining stakes in Statoil and Norsk Hydro.