- Plaintiffs considering appealing the Oslo court decision
- Norway government says it's `satisfied' with court ruling
Norway’s government beat back a lawsuit from companies controlled by Allianz SE and Abu Dhabi among others seeking to reverse cuts in tariffs on the Gassled pipeline network they claim will cost them about $1.8 billion.
There was no reason to assume that the state had agreed at the time that Gassled was established to keep tariffs unchanged until the end of the 2028 license period, Oslo District Court said in its ruling. It ruled that the parties will pay their own court costs because the government also bears blame for the legal dispute occurring.
Investors in Gassled, whose owners also include Canadian pension funds and a UBS AG-controlled infrastructure fund, sued Norway to stop the 90 percent cut set to take effect in late 2016 that they claim will reduce total income by about 34 billion kroner. Together in 2011 and 2012 they paid about 32 billion kroner ($3.7 billion) for a 44 percent stake in the pipelines of western Europe’s biggest gas producer. They argued that the cuts violate Norwegian law, its constitution and European private property conventions.
They now have six weeks to appeal the decision.
“We’re going to consider carefully over the next six weeks what we’re gonna do,” said Trygve Pedersen, chief executive officer of Solveig Gas Norway AS, one of the plaintiffs. Solveig, which owns 24.8 percent of Gassled, is controlled by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Abu Dhabi Investment
Authority and Allianz Capital Partners.
The government argued that it’s free to change tariffs to promote “good resource management” and the definition of that is “naturally at the discretion of the government.”
The ministry is “satisfied” with the ruling, Ole Berthelsen, a spokesman for the Petroleum and Energy Ministry, said in a statement.
Allianz last year in a letter to Prime Minister Erna Solberg said the cuts led to “significant” losses and writedowns on its 6.1 billion-krone investment. The insurer said that the move damaged trust in Norway, potentially harmed infrastructure investments in general and hurt German and Norwegian citizens. Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, the country’s largest pension-fund manager, also said that it was “seriously recalibrating” its view of Norway after the reductions.
Infragas Norge AS, Njord Gas Infrastructure Holding AS, Silex Gas Norway AS and Solveig were the official plaintiffs in the suit against Norway’s Petroleum and Energy Ministry. They bought their stakes from oil companies such as Statoil ASA, Total AS and Royal Dutch Shell Plc.
“Njord will make announcement when this decision has been made,” the company said in a statement, referring to whether it will appeal. Njord is owned by UBS International Infrastructure Fund and CDC Infrastructure SA.
The largest shareholder in Gassled, state-owned Petoro AS, wasn’t part of the suit. The second-biggest owner is Solveig Gas.
Gassled, the formal owner of the Norwegian gas transport infrastructure, supplies about 20 percent of Europe’s gas demand through links to the U.K., France, Belgium and Germany.