Oil jobs disappear but business upbeat

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More than 9,000 jobs in Norway’s oil sector have disappeared as a result of cuts made by employers adjusting to much lower oil prices, reports DNB Markets. Few business leaders seem overly concerned, however, according to the mood at the annual conference of Norway’s largest employers’ organization NHO.

Investor Jens Ulltveit-Moe (left) and former Hydro CEO Eivind Reiten are among those who see no crisis for the Norwegian economy despite the dive in oil prices.

Investor Jens Ulltveit-Moe (left) and former Hydro CEO Eivind Reiten are among those who see no crisis for the Norwegian economy despite the dive in oil prices. PHOTO: NHO

The annual conference of NHO (Næringslivets Hovedorganisasjon) regularly attracts the country’s top political and business leaders. They filled the Opera House at Bjørvika in Oslo on Thursday, and were remarkably upbeat.

Speakers and members of the audience suggested that seafood production and tourism will be among the sectors replacing oil and gas as the biggest growth industries in Norway. In line with economists and government officials, informal polls of those attending NHO’s annual conference see no crisis and no need for any government bailout programs, at least not yet.

“If we can live with lower oil prices in Rogaland (the county that’s home to Norway’s oil capital of Stavanger), the rest of the country can, too,” Einar Vevatne,  regional director of construction company Skanska, told newspaper Aftenposten. Like his NHO colleagues, he sees new opportunities for other sectors as the Norwegian economy diversifies and starts moving away from oil domination.

Investor Jens Ulltveit-Moe and Eivind Reiten, a former chairman of industrial concern Norsk Hydro, also warned against any government support packages for the oil industry. They see challenges for the national economy in the year ahead but Ulltveit-Moe sees more opportunity than ever before in renewable energy projects and doesn’t want to help oil ventures. “I think we will tackle this (the effects of lower oil prices and a weaker Norwegian krone) quite well,” Reiten told newspaper Dagsavisen. “This has nothing to with any crisis. This is a natural swing in business that can handle it.”

Statoil’s acting chairman Eldar Sætre noted that Norway’s largest company is concentrating on cost-cutting instead, and is prepared for the consequences of lower oil prices. “It wasn’t unexpected for us that the oil price can fall,” he told Aftenposten. “At the same time, the fall in the past few months has been bigger than expected. This is a situation we have prepared for.”

As Statoil reduces staffing and cuts costs, it’s also reportedly leasing out space in its relatively new Oslo-area headquarters at Fornebu because it’s not needed any more.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund