Oslo Companies Are Ripe For Picking

Friday, December 10, 1999
Many Norwegian companies remain under-priced and are likely targets for foreign predators, analysts said. Despite gains in the Total index to peaks this week at around 1,300 points -- the highest so far this year -- analysts said Norwegian companies remain cheap and are natural prey for foreign bidders. "There are still crown jewels on the Oslo bourse, especially in the industrial sector," said Morten Stundstoe, chief analyst in Fondspartner. "The Oslo bourse is 10 to 15 percent under the level we believe is fair value," said another analyst. Foreign interest in Norwegian firms has picked up recently. Last Monday, Swedish constructor NCC launched a bid for Selmer. On Friday, Swedish-Finnish MeritaNordbanken extended a 24.3-billion-crown offer for Christiania Bank, while the world's largest cruise operator, Carnival Corp., tried unsuccessfully to woo shareholders at NCL Holding. Others said the offshore sector was also lowly priced and attractive to potential bidders. "There are many who will consolidate further and in the offshore industry we have only seen the beginning," said Stundstoe. "But the biggest (takeovers) will not come before next year," he said. Offshore supply companies Navis and Ocean Rig and services firm Smedvig might attract bidders, analysts said. "Norwegian companies are to a large extent specialists in their own fields. It is difficult to find many synergies between them, which again contributes to the likelihood that they will be victims of international consolidation," said one analyst. That analyst said that among the larger oil-related stocks, Petroleum Geo-Services was continually included in rumors that American giant Halliburton wanted to buy the group. - (Reuters)

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