Statoil's dividend irks major wealth fund

February 8
6:53 AM 2016

The oil price drop is denting revenues of Norwegian government. Norway gets income from crude oil and taxes. With revenues dropping significantly, the Norwegian government is counting on state's dividends from Statoil ASA. The government has agreed for the scrip dividend payout by Statoil.  

Statoil has announced the dividend payout in stock, which is called scrip dividend. Norway government holds 67 percent in the oil company and supported the scrip dividend proposal. The government wants to keep its shareholding at the same level. 

It could also deepen the first-ever withdrawal from the $810-billion wealth fund, which is also facing turbulent situation amid lower oil prices. The Norway's government opted for scrip dividend otherwise the revenues to the government get reduced if other shareholders get more stocks in form of dividend, according to Bloomberg.

Statoil's President and Chief Executive Eldar Sætre said that Norwegian state-backed oil major to maintain its dividend despite sluggish oil industry. Statoil is also under pressure on dividend as some analysts advise it to cut down the dividend. Sætre further said if dividend is reduced, then it wouldn't be attractive.

Sætre is keen on consistency for shareholders and running the company in a prudent manner, as he told Financial Times. Previously, Statoil said the board of directors would recommend $0.22 for the fourth quarter of 2015. Sætre wants to maintain this level for the first three quarters in 2016. The company has chalked out a new dividend scheme in form of stocks at a discount of five percent.

Trond Omdal, an analyst at Pareto Securities AS, said: "We've assumed 50 percent of the dividend will now be paid in equity. But, it could probably be even higher.' However, this is bad news for the world's biggest wealth fund, which used to get fresh inflows of large cash. 

Statoil reported adjusted earnings after tax of NOK1.6 billion for the fourth quarter of 2015. The adjusted earnings for entire 2015 were NOK 77 billion and adjusted earnings after tax were NOK19.5 billion. However, Statoil's net income for the fourth quarter was negative NOK9.2 billion and for full year was negative NOK37.3 billion, according to Statoil. Sætre attributes drop in net income to slump in commodity markets. 

Global markets are too reeling under pressure as selloff triggered by petro-fueled wealth funds. Yngve Slyngstad, the head of the Norwegian fund, in November said the investors were selling off its government bond portfolio to fund new real estate purchases.  

The oil price drop is forcing the government to withdraw more money from the fund. Nordea Bank, the largest Nordic lender, estimated the owing to crude oil price drop, the government may need to withdraw Kroner57billion form the fund. Earlier, the government made a projection on funds requirement to the tune of Kroner 5billion from the wealth fund.

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