| OSLO, April 30
OSLO, April 30 Norway's likely next prime
minister called on the state to cut its stake in Statoil
from two thirds to just over a half and diversify the
Opposition Conservative Party leader Erna Solberg told
Reuters that Norway, whose $735 billion sovereign wealth fund is
among the biggest in the world, should sell billions of dollars
worth of shares in large listed firms.
"We won't sell just to sell, but rather to give companies
better development prospects," Solberg told Reuters as her party
prepared to approve an election platform focused on
privatisation, moderate tax cuts and public sector reforms.
At current prices, a sale of 16 percent of Statoil and a
reduction in the 54 percent stake in telcoms firm Telenor
to about one third would fetch around 110 billion
Norwegian crowns ($19 billion).
The Conservatives hope to form a coalition with the
right-wing Progress Party and two small centrist ones with polls
showing the four could win around a 100 seats in Norway's
169-seat in elections in September.
Solberg said the state should maintain large holdings in
private companies as Norway has a long tradition of state
ownership in corporations.
"It's important for us to keep the headquarters of global
firms like these in Norway, and typically much of their
research. These are benefits of being owners," Solberg said, but
added that current stakes are bigger than necessary.
Solberg said Norway is too dependent on its vast oil sector
and must encourage growth in other industries to protect the
economy from price swings that could cause a drop in offshore
"The potential for considerably lower oil prices is the
number one economic challenge," she said, adding that new
sources of energy, such as shale oil and gas, could dampen the
"It was only 14 years ago that the oil price stood at 10-11
dollars per barrel. That's why we're so concerned with
stimulating growth in other parts of the economy," Solberg
North Sea crude currently trades at 103 dollars per barrel
and is forecast to give Norway a budget surplus of some 380
billion crowns this year, much of which will be stashed in its
Given the huge surplus, Solberg said Norway would not sell
down equity stakes just for the sake of doing it and would wait
for top prices.
Norway, the world's seventh biggest oil exporter and Western
Europe's top gas supplier, generates a fifth of its GDP from the
Under a fiscal spending rule endorsed by both the
Conservatives and Labour, governments can spend around four
percent of the fund's value per year.
Solberg argued that the current boom should be used to skew
public funds towards education, research, infrastructure and tax
cuts, and said Labour and its smaller partners were too fond of
($1 = 5.8225 Norwegian krones)
(Editing by David Cowell)