Statoil’s surprise purchase late last week of an 11.9 percent stake in the Swedish family-controlled Lundin Petroleum has set off speculation in Norway as to whether Statoil was trying to prevent other rivals from gaining control over the company.
Statoil bought most of its shares for SEK 128 each, for a total investment of SEK 4.6 billion. Statoil and Lundin are partners in the Johan Sverdrup oil field, and Lundin also has made major discoveries near Statoil’s Johan Castberg field in the Barents Sea.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that rival oil company Det norske, of which Kjell Inge Røkke’s Aker conglomerate owns half, has spoken earlier about a merger with Lundin. Det norske is also a partner, but has been an unhappy one, in the Sverdrup field.
Statoil’s purchase of 11.9 percent of Lundin may have blocked Det norske from getting a stake i Lundin. “No one thinks this is purely a financial placement,” DN cited one unidentified source as saying, “Statoil is blocking the possibility of getting a strong competitor.”
Analyst Anne Gjøen at Handeslbanken noted that Statoil paid a lot for its stake, which Lundin itself viewed as recognition that Lundin has done well and made itself worthy of investment. “There is reason to believe something (other than a financial investment) lies behind (Statoil’s purchase),” Gjøen said.
Kjetil Bakken at Carnegie, though, said he didn’t think Statoil bought into Lundin to prevent others from doing the same. “This is, for the time being, a financial investment with strategic overtones,” Bakken told DN. He thinks Statoil simply wants to increase its exposure in the giant Sverdrup field.