Kvaerner beat market expectations with a jump in first-quarter profits, and the company reiterated opposition to a tie-up with Norwegian oil industry services rival Aker. Kvaerner, trying to recover from a wrenching 1999 restructuring, said pre-tax profits leapt to 151 million crowns ($16.66 million) in the quarter to March 31 from 10 million crowns in the same period of 2000.
Net profits leapt to 110 million from 10 million.
"We're not jumping for joy about it but with the starting point we've had this has to be a pleasant confirmation
that we are on the right track," Chief Executive Kjell Almskog told a news conference.
Operating profits were fractionally up to 261 million crowns from 259 million but were sharply up from 189 million when adjusted for a sale last year of Kvaerner's construction unit to Sweden's Skanska AB.
Regarding the Aker link: "It is our view that this proposal...does not promote (Kvaerner's long-term strategy) and is not in the best interests of shareholders," Almskog said.
Aker Maritime, controlled by Norwegian billionaire industrialist Kjell Inge Roekke, proposed a link-up with the shipping and oil and gas divisions of Kvaerner in February in a bid to confront widening global competition. Kvaerner said that its Oil and Gas division was the strongest performer in the first quarter with operating profits of 96 million crowns against six million in 2000.
Profits for Kvaerner's other main division, Engineering and Construction, fell to 117 million from 166 million due to falling turnover.
"Our top priority is to develop the two areas which we consider our core areas," Almskog said, adding Kvaerner wanted to become "a highly specialized supplier of industrial technology to the oil and gas and land-based industry". - (Reuters)