Norway to take first steps towards cutting state ownership

OSLO Tue Dec 17, 2013 7:10pm IST

A general view of Statoil's office is seen in Stavanger in this January 18, 2013 file photo provided by NTB Scanpix. REUTERS/Kent Skibstad/NTB Scanpix

A general view of Statoil's office is seen in Stavanger in this January 18, 2013 file photo provided by NTB Scanpix.

Credit: Reuters/Kent Skibstad/NTB Scanpix

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OSLO (Reuters) - Norway aims to begin a legal process in the spring that could lead to a reduction in state holdings in a number of the country's big companies, the country's trade and industry minister said on Tuesday.

Norway's center-right government, in power since October, is committed to reducing the state's role in the economy, which includes selling off part of the stakes its holds in some companies.

A government white paper would be the first step in the political process to reduce the stakes.

"I hope that we can present a white paper on (state) ownership in the spring," trade and industry minister Monica Maeland told Reuters on the sidelines of a visit to the Oslo stock exchange.

"The spring is approaching fast. But that is the plan." She declined to give further details.

The government has stakes in most big Norwegian companies, including oil firm Statoil (STL.OL), aluminum producer Norsk Hydro (NHY.OL), bank DNB (DNB.OL), fertilizer maker Yara (YAR.OL) and telecoms firm Telenor (TEL.OL).

Other smaller firms it has stakes in include fish farmer Cermaq (CEQ.OL), property firm Entra ENTRA.UL and energy company StatkraftSTATKF.UL, Europe's biggest producer of renewable energy.

Separately, the minister said the current crown level, which is near a four-year low against the euro, was positive for the country's corporate sector.

"The crown level is good for Norwegian companies," she said. "It is good that the crown is weaker."

Many Norwegian companies are export-oriented, and a weak crown makes selling abroad more profitable.

(Reporting by Henrik Stolen; Writing by Gwladys Fouche; Editing by Terje Solsvik and Jane Merriman)

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