The Oslo Stock Exchange, being the second largest market place in Europe for energy companies, could prove to be an attractive market place for several of the expected IPOs. Thommessen has a track record second to none in the Norwegian IPO market, having had a market share above 90% of the raised equity in all IPOs in the Norwegian market in each of the last five years.

Background

From the outset in the 1960s until 2000, the exploration and production (E&P) activity on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) was dominated by supermajors and Equinor. Between 2000 and the oil price spike in 2013-2014 there was, however, a rise in both the number and diversity of players active on the NCS, from 28 companies in 2000 to 58 companies in 2013-2014. This development can partly be explained by the following changes in the regulatory framework:

  • A prequalification route was introduced to enable E&P companies an opportunity to have its suitability for participation on the NCS evaluated before dedicating more resources to actual business development opportunities.
  • APA (Award in Predefined Areas) licensing rounds were introduced to give the E&P companies access to sufficient exploration acreage and ensure continuous exploration activity.
  • The exploration refund system was introduced to ensure equal tax treatment of exploration costs for E&P companies irrespective of being in a tax position or not.

 

When the oil price collapsed in 2014, several of the larger operators decided to shift their focus towards other less capital intensive oil and gas provinces, or to fully pursue their focus on renewables. This resulted in several transactions, such as BP Norge's merger with DETNOR and thereby forming Aker BP, ExxonMobil's sale of all its operated assets on the NCS, Hess' sale of Hess Norge, Shell's sale of its interests in Draugen and Gjøa, Dong's and Engie's sales of their respective oil and gas businesses and VNG's sale of VNG Norge.

Private equity players entering

The relatively short investment cycle of the private equity (PE) industry, seen in the light of the relatively long lead time (typically 10 – 15 years) from award of a production license to a discovery coming on stream, is in our view one of the explanations for the historic absence of PE investments in the E&P sector. However, when the oil price collapsed in 2014, several PE players grasped the opportunity to snap oil and gas assets from oil companies seeking to cut costs. Since then, we have seen several PE backed E&P companies evolve, such as Neptune Energy, Chrysaor, Pandion, OKEA, Siccar Point, Verus Petroleum, Zennor Petroleum and Vår Energi, with several others still looking to enter. We also see PE backed E&P companies with participating interests in other areas than the NCS pursuing the possibility to list in Oslo.

Exits on the way?

Cuts in production from OPEC combined with concerns about exports from Venezuela and Iran have increased the oil price with 50% the last 12 months. Brent crude currently trades around USD 85 per barrel. One can assume that the bets laid down by the PE players in the wake of the oil collapse have already yielded a significant return, at least on paper. Assuming normal PE investment cycles, it is likely that several of the PE players are already considering different exit strategies. Given that several of the companies have grown to a significant size, we believe that exits through IPOs could be the preferred option for several of these investments. The Oslo Stock Exchange is the second largest market place in Europe for energy companies, hosting E&P companies such as Equinor, Aker BP and DNO. OKEA also recently announcing its intention to float in Oslo.

The leading IPO advisor

Thommessen is the unrivalled leader in Norway within capital markets, and our practice is consistently ranked in the top tier by all recognised rating agencies. We have acted in IPOs representing more than 90% of proceeds raised in each of the last five years, and from 2008 to date we have acted in 45 IPOs in the Norwegian market, representing a deal volume nearly twice as high as the second firm in the league table prepared by Mergermarket. Our capital markets team is strengthened by the sector knowledge and experience in our other recognised practices, in particular within oil & gas and oil services. Hence, our team is both capable and very keen to assist players in exits through IPOs in the Norwegian market.

Please do not hesitate to contact us should you want to know more about our credentials and capabilities or the listing process in general.