Newly elected Norway prime minister Solway has promised measures that will kickstart a flat infrastructure sector
There has been a great deal of speculation about the opportunities that may arise for the international infrastructure sector as a result of Norway’s recent parliamentary election. Following the result Erna Solberg, leader of Norway’s Conservative Party, becomes prime minster and will form a coalition government.
Solberg has previously said she is open to restarting the Norwegian public private partnership (PPP, or OPS as it is known as in Norway) model, which is welcomed by the international infrastructure sector.
Norway’s PPP market, along with many others in Europe, has been stagnant in recent years. The most recent PPPs, the E18 Grimstad, E39 Lyngdal and E39 Klett motorways, closed financially almost 10 years ago, with the final stretch of motorway completed last year.
If the new government presses ahead with reinvigorating the PPP model, the first project is likely to be the construction of bridges and tunnels on the E39 Møreaksen motorway, designed to remove the need for traffic to use ferries across multiple stretches of the motorway, which create bottlenecks.
A number of commentators have questioned why a government as well funded as Norway would require private finance to fund an infrastructure project. Solberg’s rationale is that a return to the PPP market is not motivated by access to finance but to allow Norway to draw on the international construction industry’s expertise and ability to innovate.
Another project that could benefit from private finance is the upgrading of Norway’s electricity grid. The grid requires considerable enhancement but its fragmented ownership makes this difficult to coordinate and the government is likely to need a project partner to consolidate the grid.
While these projects have the potential to kickstart Norway’s project finance market, the recent Gassled case, whereby the previous government announced a 90 per cent cut on tariffs that the subsea Gassled pipeline charges energy companies to transport gas from North Sea production platforms to processing plants in Norway and terminals in Britain, Germany, France and Belgium, has caused uncertainty for international investors.
While the price cut had been anti-cipated by domestic investors, it has affected the sentiment of international investors after a group, which had invested $5.1bn into Gassled, claimed the move could cost them $6.6bn in lost earnings over the next 20 years.
In addition, there could be fresh infrastructure opportunities if the new government allows Norway’s sovereign wealth fund to invest in overseas infrastructure, a move that would benefit the energy infrastructure and infrastructure markets, which have felt the effects of a scarcity of capital in recent years.
However, the government needs to consider how international investors view political risk – the Gassled case, for example, could impact on inbound investment. At the same time, Norway’s stability and its strong domestic financial market, together with the popularity of the Nordic bond market, has meant investors and their advisers are very familiar with international finance.