Market organisation and strategic importance to underpin new policy on State holdings
Market organisation and strategic importance to the Dutch economy will in future determine whether a State holding is held temporarily, permanently or non-permanently. Increasing or decreasing the portfolio of holdings will not be a goal in itself. As from 2014, the government will evaluate the State's ownership of a number of holdings every year. The shareholder's role in the governance of the holdings will be accentuated in certain areas. The Minister of Finance, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, has set out the new policy in a document entitled Central Government Policy on State Holdings 2013. The Cabinet has agreed to submit the document to the House of Representatives.
Consequences for Gasunie and Tennet
The government has decided not to part-privatise Gasunie and Tennet, reconfirming the importance of public ownership of our gas and electricity networks. However, forms of strategic cooperation through cross-holdings, with other network operators certified under EU rules, are being studied. Any transaction will first be discussed with the House of Representatives.
Consequences for other holdings
State ownership of other holdings, such as Schiphol Airport, the Dutch railway operator NS and the Port of Rotterdam, has been confirmed. When it nationalised financial holdings that are being held temporarily, such as ABN AMRO, ASR and SNS Reaal, the government decided that they would be returned to the private sector when they had been restored to financial health and market conditions had returned to normal. The government has already announced plans to sell non-permanent holdings, such as Staatsloterij and Holland Casino.
Role of the shareholder
Regarding the governance of State holdings, the State wishes to accentuate its role as shareholder in certain areas. The threshold above which investment decisions must be put to the shareholder, for example, will be lowered. In his capacity as shareholder, the Minister of Finance wishes to be involved at an early stage when a State holding takes a strategic decision. The strategy will be assessed with regard to the public interest, financial consequences and feasibility. To retain and strengthen the capital in the holdings and safeguard the public interest for future generations, the shareholder will also apply profitability targets for each holding. The State will play a more prominent role in the appointment and reappointment of executive and supervisory directors and will judge the ultimate candidates on, amongst other things, their suitability and affinity with the public sector. The new policy on State holdings also embraces a stricter approach to remuneration. A ceiling will be set on the variable pay of the executive directors of State holdings equal to 20% of fixed pay, as in the financial sector. An assessment framework with remuneration rules comparable to those in place for executive directors will be introduced for supervisory directors.
Periodic evaluation of State holdings
The periodic evaluation of State holdings will concentrate on the public framework, corporate governance, commercial position, strategic factors and the achievement of public goals. The government has decided that the Ministry of Finance will continue its coordination of State holdings. The government will adopt the recommendation of the Senate's investigative committee that the steps in the decision-making framework be integrated into privatisation policy. The steps must ensure that privatisations are conducted carefully and transparently. Parliament will be closely involved in decisions to retain holdings or sell them in full or in part.