The Hydro share was floated on the New York Stock Exchange on 25 June 1986. The timing proved to be somewhat unfortunate, for 1986 was one of only four years in Hydro’s long history with red figures at the bottom line.
But 1986 was an unusual year with a major fall in oil and mineral fertilizer prices, and – thanks to active market communication – was seen as just that: an exception for Hydro.
American investors did not let the opportunity pass them by and increased their stake in the company from two to 15 per cent. The listing on the New York exchange and the confidence in the company resulted in a NOK 2.5 million (EUR 300 million at 2003 exchange rate) injection of capital, despite the weak stock market at the time. This was the largest increase in share capital in Scandinavia at the time, and was the first time subscription rights were offered to shareholders in Europe and the US at once.
The 1980s were an expansive period in Hydro’s history. During the seventies, most investments had been made in Norway, but in the following decade the majority were in other countries. These included the purchase of fertilizer plants, the building of a magnesium factory in Canada, expansions in the aluminum industry also within semi-manufactured products. Then there were the investments in oil and gas projects in the North Sea, which remained high throughout the eighties. Investments totalled more than NOK 60 billion (EUR 7 billion at 2003 exchange rate) during the course of ten years.
“What we learnt in the eighties was a confirmation of the conclusion we drew at the end of the seventies: financial reserves are important to survive a recession, retain freedom of action and be able to take interesting investment opportunities when these arise,” said Georg Størmer, the company’s financial director for many years, at the beginning of the nineties.
Ups and downs
Historically, the Hydro share has been a good investment, particularly so in the eighties when its value increased by a factor of five. The share price developed more slowly during the nineties, but nevertheless amounted to a doubling of value.
Investments remained high during this period as the company put into practice its strategy of focusing on three core areas Oil and Energy, Agri and Aluminum. Focus on the end-user market also increased.