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Stock exchange ownership: Norway to be brought to court for breach of EEA law



The Authority today decided to bring Norway to the EFTA Court for maintaining in force restrictions on ownership and voting rights in financial services infrastructure institutions.

In Norway, the Stock Exchange Act[1] and the Securities Register Act[2] provide for a general ban of ownership above 20 percent of the shares in stock exchanges and securities depositories, with very limited exemptions. Furthermore, the Acts restrict voting rights to 20 percent of the total votes and to 30 percent of the votes represented at a shareholders' meeting.  

In the Authority's view, these rules restrict, in an unjustified manner, the possibility to invest in these undertakings and to participate effectively in their management. Therefore, the rules are incompatible with the EEA rules on free movement of capital and the freedom of establishment.

“The Authority does not dispute that well functioning and transparent financial markets are an objective of public interest. But a general ban of ownership above 20 percent goes beyond what is necessary to achieve this aim,” Mr. Per Sanderud, president of the Authority, said.

EEA law does not prevent Norway to refuse changes to the ownership of financial services infrastructure institutions, if the ownership could pose a threat to the sound and prudent management of the market. A general ban of ownership above 20 percent without any prior assessment of the suitability of the owner is however not justified.

In December 2009, the Authority issued a letter of formal notice to Norway on this matter. It then followed up with a reasoned opinion in December 2010, requesting Norway to comply with its obligations within two months. As Norway has not complied with the reasoned opinion, the Authority has now decided to bring Norway to the EFTA Court.


For further information, please contact:

Xavier Lewis
Legal & Executive Affairs
Tel.: (+32)(0)2 286 1830


Trygve Mellvang-Berg
Press & Information Officer
Tel.: (+32)(0)2 286 1866
Mob.: (+32)(0)492 900 187

[1] Lov 29. juni 2007 nr. 74 om regulerte markeder (børsloven).

[2] Lov 5. juli 2002 nr. 64 om registrering av finansielle instrumenter (verdipapirregisterloven).

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