By Kjetil Malkenes Hovland and John D. Stoll
STAVANGER, Norway–Statoil ASA (STO, STL.OS) Chief Executive Helge Lund said Monday in a town hall meeting with Norway’s prime minister and thousands of employees that the In Amenas terror attack represents a crossroads for the global oil and gas industry, but international activities by the company and Norway’s wider industry won’t be deterred.
Mr. Lund spoke to employees in 40 locations through a webcast from an auditorium on the Norwegian west coast as five Norwegian colleagues were still missing after a terrorist attack at the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria, a joint venture between Statoil, BP Plc (BP, BP.LN) and Algerian energy company Sonatrach (SON.YY).
“This act of violence is a crossroads, for the global oil and gas industry, for our organization, our culture and the quality of our leadership,” Mr. Lund told his employees. “Together we need to define our way forward.”
He said that the “terrible and unacceptable acts’ committed by the terrorists at In Amenas was the worst attack on Statoil and the oil and gas industry in living memory, and that it was an attempt to create fear and instability.
“We’ve seen it in 2011 in Oslo and at Utoya,” he said. “This time, a brutal attack on Statoil and our close partners and colleagues from many companies in the Algerian desert.”
But the company would not let the terrorist attack interfere with its determination, Mr. Lund said, because that would be to let the company and the missing colleagues down. This view was echoed by Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
“We feel your pain and share your anger and desperation,” Mr. Stoltenberg told the Statoil employees, adding that he was proud of the way the company had handled one of its worst crisis ever. “When terrorism hits, Norway responds like a tight-knit family.”
Mr. Stoltenberg said in comments following Mr. Lund that the In Amenas attack was on the global economic system, but it won’t discourage Norway’s activities on that stage. “We will never abandon international activities as a result of terrorist attacks.”
“Norwegian companies should not be intimidated to step down their engagement in legal business activities abroad, Mr. Stoltenberg said, calling the international community to step up the fight against terrorism.
“The alternative is to let extremists dictate the rules of international cooperation,” he said.
Prior to the meeting, Mr. Stoltenberg had visited Statoil’s emergency room together with Minister of Petroleum and Energy Ola Borten Moe, and early visited affected families at the family center in Bergen north of Stavanger. Norway’s Queen Sonja and Crown Prince Haakon also visited the affected families earlier Monday.
Mr. Lund on Sunday named the five Norwegians who were still missing in Algeria. Today, search and rescue efforts continued unabated at the In Amenas gas facility, in the desert and in hospitals, he said.
Two days after Algerian forces ended the hostage situation at the facility which left scores of hostages and hostage takers dead, hope is dwindling that the five missing Norwegians are still alive. Mr. Lund said the entire company felt compassion for the families who were still waiting.
“This senseless event now demands the best from all of us,” Mr. Lund said. “Five families miss their loved ones. Twenty-two-thousand employees in Statoil think of the unbearable agony they feel over not knowing.”
-Niclas Rolander in Stockholm contributed to this article