Speculation rises over Orkla

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Norwegian industrial concern Orkla AS became a subject of speculation after its longtime top executive Dag J Opedal quit on Friday. Not only did tongues start wagging over why he left and who would replace him, but also over the future of Orkla’s major stake in solar firm REC.

STEPPING DOWN: Orkla CEO Dag J Opedal PHOTO: Orkla

Opedal spent 22 years at Orkla, the last six as chief executive, and claims it simply was time for a change. Both he and Orkla chairman Stein Erik Hagen insisted there was no single event or reason for his departure, with Opedal saying his decision had simply “ripened” over time.

Newpaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported over the weekend, however, that analysts immediately linked it to the relatively poor performance of Orkla’s investment in REC. They predict structural changes in Orkla, and think Hagen will either sell off Orkla’s percent stake in REC or combine it with its interests in industrial materials firm Elkem.

Orkla, with 32,000 employees, ranks as Norway’s largest company in which the state has no stake. That’s also prompted speculation, according to newspaper Aftenposten, that the state will now step forward and take over all or some of Orkla’s stake in REC. 

Orkla has moved farther away from being involved in heavy industry to being more involved in food and other products. It owns or partly owns such well-known brands in Norway as foods maker Stabburet, Nidar chocolates and candy, the frozen pizza Grandiosa, Lilleborg soaps and sundries, and foresty and chemicals firm Borregaard.

Views and News staff