(Corrects JULY 11 story to clarify Solveig Gas, Infragas owned
by different pension funds)
* Norway to cut gas transportation tariffs by 90 pct
* Three companies say they intend to claim for losses
OSLO, July 11 Several partners in Norway's
offshore gas pipeline system Gassled intend to sue the Norwegian
state over losses due to cuts in gas transportation tariffs,
they said on Thursday.
Companies, representing several international investment
funds, such as the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Canadian
pension funds and German insurer Allianz, have spent
$5.1 billion in recent years acquiring stakes in Norwegian
pipelines, then considered a safe and steady investment bet.
The government said at the end of June it would stick to an
earlier announced plan to lower the tariffs by 90 percent for
new gas contracts, a move it said was intended to encourage
higher production in mature fields and exploration in the
frontier areas of the Arctic.
Though the government decided that lower tariffs will apply
from 2016 instead of this year as previously planned, investors
insist the decision to cut them lacks legal basis and should be
declared invalid. The government says it acted legally.
Njord Gas Infrastructure AS, Solveig Gas AS and
Silex Gas AS said they all notified Norway's oil and energy
ministry on Thursday about their intention to bring legal action
against the Nordic state to claim compensation for the losses.
"Notice contemplates that the company would claim
compensatory damages for the loss the company suffers as a
result of the decision," Njord Gas, which holds 8 percent of
Gassled, said in a statement to the Oslo Stock Exchange.
Trygve Pedersen, head of Solveig Gas Norway, owned by the
Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, the Abu Dhabi Investment
Authority and Allianz, said the notification was "the initial
step in the legal proceedings."
"We are basically notifying that their (ministry's) decision
lacks legal foundation, and that we will claim financial
losses," he added.
Kurt Georgsen, Chief Executive Officer of Silex Gas, a
subsidiary of Allianz Capital Partners, said litigation could be
avoided if the ministry changes its position.
The three companies together hold almost 39 percent of
Gassled venture. Norway's state-owned Petoro is the major
stakeholder with 45.8 percent.
Norway's oil and energy ministry confirmed receiving letters
from the three companies.
"We are taking them into the consideration," a spokeswoman
said, declining to comment further.
Infragas Norge AS, wholly owned by another Canadian pension
fund, the Public Sector Pension Investment Board, which has also
protested against the government's proposal, said it was still
assessing the situation.
Norway exports gas via an 8,000-kilometre-long network to
receiving terminals in Britain, France, Belgium and Germany.
Last year, Norway overtook Russia to become the European
Union's biggest gas supplier, delivering 106 billion cubic
metres of gas.
(Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis; Editing by David Evans)