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Statoil: Regulator to Look Into Iran Deal

September 26, 2003

OSLO, Norway (AP) _ U.S. regulators plan an informal inquiry into Statoil ASA’s controversial consultancy contract to expand business opportunities in Iran, the Norwegian oil and gas company said Friday.

Statoil, whose shares are listed on the New York Stock Exchange as well as the Oslo Stock Exchange, said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requested certain documents and that it will cooperate with the SEC inquiry.

Earlier this week, Statoil chief executive Olav Fjell resigned amid a widening investigation of claims the company made improper payments in its effort to expand into Iran.

Fjell, 52, was the third Statoil executive to leave since Sept. 12. He was replaced by chief financial officer Inge Ketil Hansen, a 57-year-old business economist with broad management experience, as acting CEO.

Chairman Leif Terje Loeddesoel resigned earlier, citing the controversy over whether the company acted improperly by hiring Iranian-operated Horton Investment Ltd. under contract for $15 million to help it develop business deals in Iran.

Fjell terminated the contract with Horton last week and Statoil’s head of international exploration and productions, Richard J. Hubbard, resigned at that time.

Earlier this month, Norway’s economic crime unit Oekokrim raided the state-controlled company’s headquarters in Stavanger, seeking evidence to determine whether the contract involved corruption. Oekokrim hasn’t said if it found any improprieties.

Statoil, which was founded by the government in 1972, is seeking to expand internationally. Norway produces about 3 million barrels of oil, plus natural gas, making it the world’s third largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Statoil was partly privatized in 2001 when the state sold 17.5 percent of its shares to investors.


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