A vigorous debate followed the announcement by Statoil chief executive Harald Norvik in January 1999 that he intended to seek a partial privatisation of the company. This was particularly heated in the Labour Party, where a number of its former key politicians warned against “selling the family silver”. But the privatisation proposal won the day, and was approved by the Storting on 26 April 2001.
Its mandate was to achieve the highest possible financial value for the SDFI on the basis of sound business principles. (Go to mandate for more information on the company’s creation.)
Petoro was accordingly founded and entered in the Norwegian Registry of Business Enterprises on 9 May 2001. Its first chair was Tore I Sandvold, who left his post as head of the petroleum department at the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy to build up the company. Kjell Pedersen came on board in September as president and CEO, with a management team established and key posts filled during the autumn/winter.
Although Petoro was given a commercial mandate, the Storting imposed certain restrictions on its operations. The company was, for example, not to act as an operator and its staffing was restricted to 60 people. The latter provision was repealed following the merger between Statoil and Norsk Hydro’s oil and energy division in 2007. That was because the loss of one of the two big Norwegian operators meant Petoro would have to do more technical and commercial work on its own account. Otherwise, the first 50 or so employees came from 34 different enterprises – including virtually all the big oil companies on the NCS.