17 March 2003


No increase in bid from DnB (nrk.no)

According to Dagens Næringsliv, Den norske Bank (DnB) will not be raising its bid for Gjensidige Nor, even though international investors are clamouring for a higher price. Hectic efforts continued throughout the weekend, and especially Sunday, to put the finishing touches to a merger agreement between the two companies. According to Dagens Næringsliv, DnB is refusing to raise its bid for Gjensidige Nor. However, the two banks have won the support of a sufficient number of international investors to make it difficult in practice to block the merger.

Merger prompts concern for customers (Dagbladet)

Carsten O. Five believes that a merger between Den norske Bank (DnB) and Gjensidige NOR would be dreadful for customers and completely devastating to competition in the Norwegian banking sector. “A merger would be completely destructive because the resultant company would have far too large a market share. There is no doubt that you and I will lose out if this goes ahead,” said Mr Five. “Both borrowers and depositors will lose out. Mergers cost, that is what we have seen time and time again,” he said.

EU membership keeps Centre Party out of office (Klassekampen)

The Centre Party would very much like to participate in a broad centre-left coalition government after the next general election in 2005. But for that to happen, the Labour Party would have to drop the question of Norwegian EU membership. With a united annual conference behind her, newly elected leader Åslaug Haga threw a spanner in the works in relation to Labour leader Jens Stoltenberg’s plans for a majority coalition government. The Centre Party finds the idea attractive, but has a number of very specific conditions. “The Labour Party must decide whether EU membership is more important than the formation of a centre-left government. We have a lot in common with the Labour Party, but the EU membership issue cuts us off from each other completely. If this issue is raised, it will put a halt to this project,” said Ms Haga.

Labour’s branch chairmen open to government led by Socialist Left Party (Aftenposten/Saturday)

A number of Labour branch chairmen say they are open to forming a government with Socialist Left Party leader Kristin Halvorsen as Prime Minister. This presupposes that the Socialist Left Party has more seats in the Storting than Labour. If Labour and the Socialist Left Party can put together a parliamentary majority after the next general election, most Labour branch leaders would support the idea of forming a government with Ms Halvorsen’s party, in line with their own leader’s stated preference. There has been a dramatic change in the way Labour’s rank-and-file views the Socialist Left Party. Not long ago few Labourites would have considered forming a government that included the Socialist Left Party – even as a very junior partner.

Svarstad Haugland: Poll success a democratic problem (Nationen/Saturday)

According to Christian Democratic Party chairwoman Valgerd Svarstad Haugland, opinion polls showing strong support for the Socialist Left Party and the Progress Party represent a democratic problem. “The parties that are gaining in the polls are those which have never taken responsibility for implementing a comprehensive political programme. This is a democratic problem,” she said. Ms Svarstad Haugland is worried by the fact that taking government office increasingly imposes a significant burden on the parties which undertake it. “But a party like the Progress Party has never had to shoulder the responsibilities of government office . I feel that it would be a defeat for the Christian Democratic Party if we were to pull out of the Government in order to boost our popularity,” said Ms Svarstad Haugland.

Worth Noting

  • Labour and Government Administration Minister Victor Norman has taken out his chequebook in an effort to entice employees at eight central government agencies out of Oslo, and to help those who do not want to relocate. Employees who choose to relocate with their jobs will receive financial assistance to help with house purchases, free travel to view potential new homes, up to a year’s free pre-school day-care, reimbursement of additional telephone expenses and higher pay.

  • Two out of five people have little or no confidence in lawyers, while one in eight people lack confidence in the police, according to a survey of attitudes towards various professional groups within the field of law and order.

  • Defence Minister Kristin Krohn Devold is highly respected by the US authorities, according to Nicholas Burns, the US Ambassador to Nato. Mr Burns has indicated that Ms Krohn Devold is a strong candidate for the position of Nato General Secretary. The Norwegian Defence Minister has built up a strong position within Nato and in the USA, including the Pentagon. She is admired in many Nato countries for her performance on a number of issues. According to Mr Burns, her name is being mentioned as one of the potential candidates for the Nato top job.

  • Norway shares fifth place with the USA in an overview of the countries whose populations are most vulnerable to an economic downturn. The countries which are keen to go to war with Iraq have the most vulnerable consumers. The countries are ranked according to how financially vulnerable their consumers are to an economic shock, such as a sharp rise in interest rates. Australia heads the list of countries in the danger zone.

Today’s comment from Aftenposten

The Labour Party, Conservative Party and Centre Party look set to do much better at this autumn’s local elections than they have been doing in opinion polls where respondents are asked who they would vote for at a general election. Support for the Socialist Left Party is weaker in relation to a local election than to a general election. But the difference is far less dramatic than is the case for the Progress Party, which risks losing a quarter of a million votes because this autumn’s elections will determine who sits on the country’s various local councils. This can be interpreted as indicating that voters do not want to give local government power to parties which win support on the basis of a general protest against developments in society, but which do not have enough credibility to be entrusted with the formation of policies that most directly affect people’s everyday lives.


World Speed Skating Single Distance Championship:

Lasse Sæthre won the bronze medal for the 10,000 metres event on Sunday.

Biathlon World Championship:

Halvard Hanevold won the silver medal for the 12.5 km pursuit event on Sunday.