It is front page news again over last weekend that Norwegian investors have lost 50% of their value in Questerre. Greenpeace has criticized the largest bank in Norway for involving itself on behalf of investors at the BAPE to make the incredibly controversial statement that uncertainty affects investment decisions. The same Greenpeace that put in a 19 page submission to the BAPE with, let’s just say, more detailed recommendations than the Norwegian bank did.
More than 50% of Questerre’s shares are held in Norway. I travel there a lot and some of my best friends are there. We are one of the top 25 traded stocks listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange and while it may be hard to believe with recent events, we are in the press more there than in Quebec.
Norwegians are nice. They are like the Canadians of Europe. I am surprised Swedes don’t wear Norwegian flags on their back packs when traveling around the world.
To be a Norwegian is to be proud of one the most successful, egalitarian and environmentally responsible societies in the world. All their electricity comes from hydro power and wind mills Global warming is a top issue. These are the people who gave Al Gore a Nobel Peace prize.
They run the Norwegian Sovereign fund. This is in effect the world’s largest ethical investment fund. This is why the Quebec ministry of Economic Development was presenting in Oslo in October. To make sure Quebec gets it fair share of the Sovereign fund. Getting Canada’s fair share of the Sovereign Fund is our diplomats’ most important job in Oslo. What else could a Canadian or Quebecker find to argue with a Norwegian about?
Like me, Norwegians expected to be welcomed for providing the risk capital over the last five years to discover one of the largest natural gas deposits in North America. This is natural gas we discovered after all, not coal, not oil sands, not even oil, but natural gas. A natural gas deposit that even two or three years ago was thought to be a petite farce among those very few in Quebec who knew we were even looking. With a shiny sustainable development record world wide and the world’s best reputation for ethical business practices who wouldn’t expect to be welcomed?
As a small unique culture with its own unique national identity who could better relate to the Nordiques at the edge of Europe, than Quebeckers? So I can understand it must be strange to a Norwegian’s ears to be told by speakers at the recent oil and gas conference that they must better understand that Quebec is a unique culture. That they should realize that hydro electricity is something to be proud of. That contrary to their experience that the oil and gas industry does not provide much in the way of economic benefits. That they should be more concerned that green house emissions are a concern for the environment. Norwegians can be forgiven for thinking they already knew all that.
The Norwegians are so nice that it is front page news that the largest bank in Norway even dared to suggest to the BAPE that Quebec consider the negative impacts of uncertainty in the law for investors. They didn’t suggest what Quebec should decide, only that it consider the impacts of uncertainty. It’s also front page news that Norwegian investors have lost half their value in Questerre due to uncertainty. Not uncertainty that sustainable development principles, balancing the economical, local and environmental concerns will be followed, since that is a minimum expectation in Norway. But uncertainty that after their money is invested that the fiscal rules could change unfairly.
It seems even nice investors worry about a fair deal when they take risks and create value.