Denmark Is Open to Selling Stakes in State Assets, Minister Says

Updated on
  • Dong ownership only makes sense if focus is Denmark: minister
  • Danish finance minister unveils red lines in asset planning

Denmark’s government, which owns stakes in 27 companies including Dong Energy A/S and SAS AB, is prepared to sell off everything that doesn’t affect its ability to protect critical infrastructure.

Though there are currently no concrete plans to move ahead with a specific divestment, the administration is “clearly open” to selling, Finance Minister Kristian Jensen said in an interview in his Copenhagen office on Friday, less than three weeks after his appointment.

Denmark’s cabinet, formed after the one-party center-right government became a three-party coalition last month, has made it a goal not to own companies that compete with private businesses. Jensen says he doesn’t have a list of firms the government wants to sell, but he’s drawn a red line around operations that are vital to safeguarding a well-functioning infrastructure.

“Both the government and a majority of lawmakers must be ready for it and we must also await the market, whether there’s a buyer,” the 45 year-old minister said.

Denmark also holds stakes in the Copenhagen airport, the national rail operator and the national lottery. It holds a 14 percent stake in pan-Scandinavian carrier SAS. The Swedish and Norwegian governments in October cut their stakes and said they ultimately plan to end their ownership of airline.

Read more: Sweden, Norway cut SAS stakes in move that may spur bid interest

Denmark earlier this year reduced its stake in Dong Energy in connection with a June initial public offering, valuing the utility at $15 billion. The company, which also operates offshore wind parks, dominated media headlines in 2014, when a junior coalition member quit the previous government in protest after Goldman Sachs was allowed to buy a stake.

Jensen said he has no concrete plans to sell more of Dong but added there are no guarantees the government will hold on to its majority stake. If Dong “becomes more of an international energy supplier,” government ownership would “no longer make sense,” he said.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.