Several of Norway’s most important companies are reporting more record earnings. That’s usually viewed as a good thing, but not now when they’re tied to painfully high prices for oil and gas that in turn are a result of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Norwegian oil and energy firm Equinor has never earned more money than it did in 2022, enough to pay out around NOK 170 billion in dividends to shareholders, the biggest being the Norwegian state. Norway’s largest bank DNB, with many customers in the energy sector, also reported more strong after-tax earnings, up 37 percent in the fourth quarter of last year. That left DNB with year-end results of NOK 32.9 billion, higher than analysts had expected even after interest rate hikes.
The CEOs of both Equinor and DNB called 2022 “an extraordinary year” characterized by the “reopenings” that followed the Corona crisis but also the war and high inflation. Equinor CEO Anders Opedal praised good and hard work by Equinor employees as they pumped up gas and oil production to meet demand in Europe, after Russian gas was cut off, but told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that he and his staff weren’t popping open bottles of bubbly, because of the high prices fueled by the war.
He’s clearly uncomfortable by the “war profits” label that’s been tied to his business, though, telling state broadcaster NRK that “we can’t do anything about the war in Ukraine. What we can do is make sure that as much gas as possible comes to Europe.”
Opedal also claimed Equinor is “very glad that the Parliament and the government are working to expand Norway’s aid package to Ukraine, and want to use money from the Oil Fund for that. He also stresses that Equinor will be investing much of its profits in renewable energy, as are other profitable Norwegian oil and gas companies like Aker BP. Environmental and climate organizations don’t think the investment is happening quickly enough.