* Cuts delayed to Oct 2016
* Investors fearing lost revenues considering legal action
* Two additional small pipeline areas get exemption
(Adds detail, investor reaction)
OSLO, June 27 Norway postponed a planned cut in
natural gas pipeline tariffs by three years on Thursday but
failed to appease angry international investors who oppose the
cuts and say they will consider legal action.
Cuts to tariffs which pipeline owners charge for using the
lines will now take effect in October 2016, said the oil and
energy ministry, which hopes lowering costs for users will spur
them to invest more in smaller fields and exploration of new
reserves in the Arctic.
"Lower costs for gas transport will strengthen the
competitiveness of Norwegian gas. At the same time the owners
(of the pipeline system) are getting reasonable profits," Oil
and Energy Minister Ola Borten Moe said in a statement.
Some of those owners have said the move will cost them 6.6
billion dollars in lost earnings over the next two decades and
are weighing legal action.
"This is not giving us a reasonable return," said Knud
Noerve, chief executive of Infragas, owned by Canada's PSP
Investments, adding the move would make Norway a less attractive
"We are very disappointed that they have gone (ahead) in
reducing the tariffs. We will now look at all options, including
legal action," said Trygve Pedersen, chief executive of Solveig
Gas, owned by Canada's PSP Investments, the Abu Dhabi Investment
Authority and Allianz.
International investors including the Abu Dhabi Investment
Authority, German insurer Allianz, Swiss bank UBS,
Canada's PSP Investments and France's Caisse des Depots
have spent more than $5 billion in recent years
acquiring stakes in Norwegian pipelines.
The tariffs are based on a formula that includes capital and
operating costs. Oslo plans a 90-percent reduction in the
capital element of the tariffs.
The ministry said, however, that the small Kvitebjoern and
Norne lines would be exempted from the cuts, bringing the number
of exempted pipeline areas to four.
But cuts will go ahead on the other five areas which form
the bulk of Norway's 8,000-kilometre-long network transporting
gas to Britain, France, Belgium and Germany.
Norway overtook Russia last year to become the European
Union's biggest gas supplier, delivering 106 billion cubic
metres of gas.
($1 = 6.0998 Norwegian kroner)
(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche and Balazs Koranyi, editing by