Aker Solutions sale report downplayed

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Stock in Norwegian oil services company Aker Solutions soared on Tuesday after a local newspaper reported that it was about to be sold to US-based Halliburton. At one point, Aker Solutions’ shares were up nearly 18 percent, but they closed at less than half that after reports of any imminent sale or merger were downplayed.

Aker CEO Øyvind Eriksen, shown here visiting an Aker BP rig with Oil Minister Terje Søviknes earlier this year, has already pointed to the advantages of how Aker teamed up with BP’s North Sea operations through a merger of Aker’s oil firm Det norske. He wouldn’t rule out a transaction like that for Aker Solutions, but a company spokesman said there was “nothing new to report.” PHOTO: Olje- og energidepartementet/Ole Berthelsen

Newspaper Finansavisen arguably set off the frenzy with its report that Aker Solutions, controlled by the Aker industrial concern that in turn is controlled by Norwegian tycoon Kjell Inge Røkke, would probably be sold to the much larger international offshore firm Halliburton. The market settled down after newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN), reported that its sources were referring to the sale report as “nonsense.” DN also noted that it’s already been reported that Aker is constantly looking for “alliances or transactions” to strengthen Aker Solutions’ industrial base after two years of major cutbacks and employee layoffs.

An example is what Aker did with its oil firm Det norske, which merged with BP’s North Sea operations and formed Aker BP. Aker remained the major and controlling shareholder. “Aker isn’t adverse to evaluating alliances or transactions,” Aker CEO Øyvind Eriksen told DN late last year, as long as any such transactions “strengthen the industrial foundation, contribute to higher value creation for shareholders and make operations even more relevant for customers.”

Aker Solutions itself saw no need on Tuesday to confirm any current negotiations in the form of a report to the Oslo Stock Exchange, which they’d be obliged to release if concrete talks were going on. DN reported on Wednesday that no one has been given a mandate to sell Aker Solutions and no one reportedly is actively working on an outright sale.  The financial news service Bloomberg reported shortly after Eriksen made his comments to DN in December that investment banking firm Goldman Sachs had been engaged by Aker Solutions in connection with a possible “transaction” involving Aker Solutions at a time when many other oil service firms have merged or been bought up.

“Aker Solutions is one of several attractive companies in our portfolio,” Atle Kigen, information director for Aker, told DN on Wednesday. “As an industrial investment company, it’s natural that we talk with players in the industry about industrial opportunities. We otherwise have nothing new to report.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund