(Adds background in fifth paragraph on number of opposition
* Conservatives, Progress Party open to infrastructure
* Conservatives also open to investments in private equity
* Norway's elections take place on Sept. 9
By Gwladys Fouche
OSLO, Aug 28 The world's largest sovereign
wealth fund, Norway's $740-billion oil fund, might be allowed to
invest in foreign infrastructure projects in the future, two
opposition parties seen as front runners to form the next
Currently Norway's oil fund can invest only in equities,
bonds and property. Some think tanks and non-governmental
organisations have argued that it should also be able to invest
in infrastructure and private equity as they fit the fund's
profile as a long-term investor.
"(We) will be open to consider both private equity and
infrastructure investments abroad," Jan Tore Sanner, the
Conservatives' finance spokesman, said in emailed replies on
Wednesday to questions from Reuters.
"When it comes to infrastructure, I don't mind the fund
doing that," said Ketil Solvik-Olsen, the Progress Party's
finance spokesman, told Reuters by phone earlier this month.
Norway's elections are on Sept. 9. Opinion polls show the
likeliest outcome to be a coalition of the centre-right
Conservatives and the populist Progress Party ousting Labour,
which has been in power for eight years with its allies. But
this is just one of a number of possible permutations involving
also two other opposition parties.
Both Sanner and Solvik-Olsen said they had not come to a
conclusion on whether the fund, set up in 1996, should be
allowed to invest in infrastructure.
But both said they would be looking to reform the
organisation of the oil fund, which invests the country's
revenues from oil and gas production for future generations.
"The current organisation has served the fund well through
the start-up period, but it is now time to review whether the
fund should stay within the current framework," said Sanner who
said one option among others could be to split the fund into two
Solvik-Olsen, meanwhile, has mooted the idea that three,
smaller funds could be broken off to invest in renewable energy,
for foreign aid in poor countries and for letting Norwegian
finance groups manage some of the cash.
"For a rough estimate, if the fund is worth 4,500 billion
crowns ($765 billion), the main fund would be worth 4,000
billion crowns and the remaining 500 billion crowns would be
divided between three smaller funds," said Solvik-Olsen.
Changes, if they happen, would be slow. Revamping the oil
fund is not the top priority of either of the parties, which are
more focused on reforming the country's hospitals, schools or
roads, topics that are more relevant to their voters.
The fund was at first limited to investing in bonds and
equities. Recently it extended into property. The fund is not
allowed to invest domestically because the oil money would risk
distorting and overheating the economy.
(Editing by Stephen Nisbet)