Hydro celebrates a century on the Oslo stock exchange
On April 16, it was 100 years since Hydro was first listed on the stock exchange. Shares in the company were first traded on the stock exchange in Kristiania, as Oslo was then called, on April 16, 1909. Later that year the share was also listed on the stock exchanges of Brussels, Geneva and Paris.
In fact, the Hydro shares were listed on the Kristiania stock exchange after the Paris bourse made listing conditional on shares also being traded in the company’s country of origin. Hydro had been founded four years earlier with a share capital of NOK 7.5 million, mostly French and Swedish capital in addition to some Norwegian.
The capital market in Norway lacked funds early in the 20th century, partly because of an economic slump at the turn of the century. Yet Sam Eyde, Hydro’s first President and CEO, wrote in his 1939 autobiography that Hydro gained the trust of the market once he, prior to the listing, “had gathered all the influential men
in the country to a public meeting in the capital.” The massive industrial and power development projects at Notodden and subsequently Rjukan required considerable investment, practically equivalent to Norway’s national budget for a decade. The money had to be raised primarily on the international capital market.
After the 1909 listings it would be 63 years until the next time Hydro was listed on a new stock exchange: London in 1972. Three years later the share was listed in Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Hamburg. A year later it was the turn of Zürich and Basel. Three more listings followed in the 1980s: Stockholm in 1983, with Amsterdam and New York following in 1986.
The listing on the industrial index of the New York Stock Exchange on June 25, 1986 was regarded as particularly important. The timing of the listing was not the best, because 1986 was one of few years in Hydro’s long history in which the company lost money. But 1986, when oil and mineral fertilizer prices plummeted, was an extraordinary year – and was, largely due to a successful information campaign in the market, considered to be an exceptional year for Hydro.
American investors did not let the opportunity pass them by, and increased their equity holding in the company from 2 to 15 percent. The New York listing, coupled with investor confidence in Hydro, also made it possible to raise NOK 2.5 billion in the market in 1988 – despite a generally weaker market. This was the biggest capital increase to date in Scandinavia and the first time a subscription issue offered by a listed company was available to shareholders in both Europe and the USA.
“During the past year Hydro has delisted from the Paris and New York stock exchanges, and on April 30 it will also be taken off the German stock exchanges. We will from then on be listed in Oslo and London only, while our US depositary shares will be traded on PinkSheets in the USA,” explains Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer John O. Ottestad.
The absolute majority of Hydro’s shares are now traded in Oslo; as capital markets have become more global, the need to be listed on several exchanges has declined.
At the end of 2008 Hydro had 42,464 shareholders, of which the Norwegian state represented by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, was biggest with a 43.8 percent stake. Other Norwegian shareholders owned 23.7 percent, with 32.5 percent held by foreign shareholders.
Read the entire story on Hydro.com.