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Norway kick-starts $8bn state stake sale

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Norway kick-starts $8bn state stake sale
Industry minister Monica Mæland during a visit to the Oslo stock exchange last December. Photo: Department of Industry and Fisheries
07:57 CEST+02:00
Norway's government on Thursday announced plans to sell off a 47 billion Norwegian kroner ($7.8 billion) tranche of shares in mobile phone giant Telenor and the industrial conglomerate Kongsberg Gruppen.
Industry Minister Monica Mæland said she would ask parliament for permission to cut the state's stake in the two companies to 34 percent -- just enough to make sure that their headquarters remain in Norway. 
 
Today the government hold a 54 percent stake in Telenor and 50 percent in Kongsberg Gruppen.
 
"I'm underlining that we're in no rush to make changes, and a permission doesn't mean that we're obliged to sell," Mæland said, according to the Wall Street Journal. "Any change will depend on commercial considerations, taking into account company-specific aspects as well as market conditions." 
 
She told NRK that the government would not block overseas companies from buying the stakes. 
 
"We are not allergic to foreign owners, and we are concerned to make it attractive for foreign investors to invest in Norway," she said. "Telenor already has foreign ownership today."
 
Norway's right-wing government pledged to reduce state holdings in the coalition agreement signed between the Conservatives and the Progress Party in October. 
 
"The government will...reduce the state's direct ownership in the Norwegian economy to ensure power dissipation and strengthen private ownership," the agreement reads.
 
The government also has large stakes in other major Norwegian companies, including the oil firm Statoil, aluminium producer Norsk Hydro, DNB bank, and fertiliser maker Yara. 
 
Mæland wouldn’t reveal any details of the government’s plans for these other companies. 
 
“We’ll make different decisions regarding the various companies,” she said.
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