Statoil CEO Olav Fjell has told Sweden's DI newspaper that he thinks the Norweigan oil company will be floated on the Norweigan stock marketby June.
"We are optimistic, and we are operating under the assumption that we can get on the stock market in June. We feel this is realistic," he said.
The Financial Times reported yesterday that a cross-party committee of Norwegian members of parliament had recommended that up to a third of Statoil, the Norwegian state-owned oil and gas group, be privatised and 21.5 per cent of the state's stake be sold.
The decision had been expected following a compromise deal struck between the four main political parties last week. Under the compromise deal, Norsk Hydro, Norway's second largest oil group, and foreign companies are allowed to buy 6.5 per cent of the state's direct interests instead of the 5 per cent originally proposed by the minority Labour government. The remaining 15 per cent will be sold to Statoil.
The recommendations, made by the energy and environment committee, still have to be voted in by parliament and are not expected to be finally approved until April 26. Statoil's stock market listing, expected to be in New York as well as Oslo, is then scheduled for June. The group is expected to offer between 15-25 per cent of its shares to both retail and institutional investors.
Statoil believes the privatisation will help it to stay competitive with other large oil companies and to expand overseas. Norwegian politicians pointed out that the decision did not appear to rule out the state selling further tranches of its interests in Statoil in the future.
"Statoil is going to have full commercial freedom and the only specific point seems to be that we must keep our headquarters in Norway," said a Statoil spokeswoman.