Norway's Equinor ASA (NYSE: EQNR) has bought a 9.7% stake in solar energy producer Scatec Solar ASA, raising its ownership to 10%, the state-controlled energy firm said Nov. 15.
Oil and gas firms are rushing to invest in renewable energy to reduce their carbon footprint in the wake of the 2016 Paris Agreement and as falling costs have made solar and wind power competitive with other energy sources.
"The investment in Scatec Solar will increase Equinor's exposure to a fast-growing renewable sector, further complementing Equinor's portfolio with profitable solar energy," Equinor said in a statement.
"This is in line with our strategy to develop into a broad energy company," it added.
It paid 700 million Norwegian crowns (US$82.55 million) for the stake, corresponding to about 63.5 crowns per share, a premium of 4.8% over the closing price Nov. 14 on the Oslo stock market.
Equinor said the investment was made with a "long-term perspective," declining to say whether it planned to increase it further in the future.
"This is the level that we are comfortable to have. We never comment on investment plans," said an Equinor spokesman.
Shares in Scatec Solar were trading 11.2% higher by 4 a.m. CST (10 GMT).
In partnership with Scatec, Equinor entered its first solar development project in 2017 in Brazil, followed by a second joint project in Argentina in June 2018.
Scatec Solar operates plants with an installed capacity of 357 megawatts (MW) and has another 1,057 MW under construction.
The Equinor spokesman said the company supported Scatec Solar's current strategy and will not seek a seat on its board.
Equinor has also invested heavily in offshore wind turbine projects.
Equinor has declined to comment on its future investment plans in solar.
"We will continue to build our position within the renewable energy, we don't want to give any indications of what business opportunities we are looking at," the spokesman said.
Its peers in Europe have invested more in solar.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc (NYSE: RDS.A) acquired a 43.9% stake in the U.S. solar power developer Silicon Ranch Corp. for $217 million in January, following BP Plc's (NYSE: BP) acquisition of a 43% stake in Lightsource, Europe's largest solar developer, for $200 million in 2017.
French oil major Total SA (NYSE: TOT) bought a majority stake in the U.S. solar power panel producer and developer SunPower for $1.38 billion in 2011, and aims to have around 5,000 MW in solar power capacity by 2022. (US$1 = 8.4799 Norwegian crowns)
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