Svein Richard Brandtzæg, chief executive of Norsk Hydro, earned the most last year of all the bosses of large Norwegian companies in which the state has a major stake. His pension, bonus and other benefits catapulted him over the CEO of Norway’s biggest company, Statoil.
Newspaper Aftenposten, citing a ministerial report about the state’s ownership interests in Norwegian companies, reported that Brandtzæg earned a total of NOK 18.18 million in 2015 (USD 2.2 million at current exchange rates). His base salary was NOK 6.2 million, but Hydro did well last year, not least because of Norway’s weaker krone that resulted from lower oil prices. His pension benefits (NOK 7.8 million) and bonus thus left him with the highest total earnings even though Statoil CEO Eldar Sætre had a higher base salary, of NOK 7.7 million.
Sætre’s total compensation at Statoil amounted to NOK 14.16 million, according to the state’s figures, still almost double his base pay.
Next in line was Telenor’s new CEO, Sigve Brekke, whose base pay was listed at NOK 4.25 million but who actually earned NOK 13.43 million over the course of the year. Aftenposten noted that Brekke, who took charge of the company in August, ranked especially high because he benefited from his former international role as head of Telenor’s Asian operations. Norwegian executives in general have lower pay scales than executives abroad, because Norwegian policy long has strived to narrow the pay gap between bosses and salaried workers in the country.
The chief executive of Norway’s largest bank DNB, in which the state has a 34 percent stake as it does in Hydro, earned NOK 12.89 million. Of that, CEO Rune Bjerke’s base salary was NOK 6.62 million.
The new CEO of fertilizer firm Yara, Svein Tore Holsether, earned NOK 10.16 million, of which NOK 1.86 million was base salary. Holsether didn’t take over at Yara until last fall. The CEO of Kongsberg Gruppen was listed with a base salary of NOK 4.05 million and total earnings of NOK 7.93 million.
All six of these companies have been or are caught up in corruption charges, with Trade Minister Monica Mæland calling their CEOs in for serious chats in recent months and set to host a major meeting on business ethics next week. While Brekke and Holsether, as new CEOs, are able to distance themselves from deals that were struck before they assumed responsibility, Sætre has faced questions over Statoil’s operations in Angola, Bjerke has been under pressure over DNB’s operations in tax havens that were revealed during the Panama Papers exposé and Norsk Hydro has had to answer questions over its involvement in Tajikistan and Kongsberg over its Romanian business.
The other two companies on the state’s list presented by Aftenposten include SAS, since the Norwegian state still has a stake in the airline along with the governments of Sweden and Denmark, and Entra, the state’s real estate company. SAS’ CEO earned the equivalent of NOK 10.29 million, of which NOK 7.7 million was base pay, the same as Statoil’s boss. Entra’s chief executive had the lowest base pay of NOK 2.62 million, but that swelled to NOK 4.35 million after pension costs and other benefits were included.