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Norway’s Finance Ministry sent a letter to Norges Bank on Tuesday, asking it to asses the impact that the planned listing of Saudi Aramco would have on the benchmark equity index of the world’s largest wealth fund, the Norges Bank-managed US$1-trillion Government Pension Fund Global (GFPG).
The Norwegian Finance Ministry made the request to Norges Bank as part of the review process that will ultimately determine whether the world’s biggest wealth fund should continue to invest in energy stocks.
In a shock announcement in November last year, Norway’s wealth fund recommended the removal of oil and gas stocks—more than US$35 billion worth of shares—from the fund’s equity benchmark index to make Norway’s wealth and economy less vulnerable to a permanent drop in oil and gas prices.
As part of the assessment of the investments, the Norwegian finance ministry appointed today an expert group to review whether the fund should invest in energy stocks. The fund’s stock investments in this sector accounts for around 4 percent of the total value of the Fund, or around US$38 billion (300 billion Norwegian crowns), the ministry said on Tuesday.
Referring to Aramco, the finance ministry is asking Norges Bank to explain the impact that a listing of Saudi Aramco will have on the fund’s benchmark index. The reason for this is that Saudi Aramco—when it goes public—will own much larger petroleum reserves than oil firms that are currently listed, which will increase the risk from the return on those resources, according to the Norwegian finance ministry.
Saudi Arabia plans to list 5 percent of Aramco in the second half of this year, and if the Saudi valuation for the entire company of US$2 trillion stands, the Kingdom could reap as much as US$100 billion from selling 5 percent of its oil giant. Saudi officials continue to reaffirm that the listing is slated for the second half of 2018, dismissing media speculation about possible delays.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.