OSLO, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Norway plans to allow salmon firms to own more than a quarter of its total production capacity, conforming to EU rules and allowing Marine Harvest, the biggest Atlantic salmon producer, to expand its Norwegian operations.
'The Ministry (of Fishing and Coastal Affairs) will soon submit for comment proposed amendments to the Aquaculture Act to provide authority for change of ownership control regulations,' the ministry said on Wednesday.
The proposed rules would contribute to the economy of coastal areas while not affecting the smaller fish-farming firms, the ministry said.
The rules would include demands, such as investments in research and other regional job-promoting schemes, that become progressively tougher depending on a fishery's share of total ownership.
'Marine Harvest is positive to the new regulations and believes the changes will strengthen local communities and scientific research and create value both for the companies and Norway as a fish-farming nation,' the company said.
The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) in July challenged Norway's ownership rules, saying the government had not been able to prove that ownership ceilings are suitable or necessary.
'This was a victory for Marine Harvest, who challenged the government,' said Kolbjoern Giskeoedegard, an analyst at Nordea. 'The government is obviously bent on taking charge and comes with a proposal where increased ownership is linked to increased onshore activity.'
Shares in Norwegian salmon producers such as Cermaq and Salmar, which are seen as potential acquisition targets for Marine Harvest, rose.
Cermaq was up 5.9 percent at 1001 GMT, and Salmar rose 3.6 percent. Marine Harvest shares gained 2.2 percent.
Norway exported more than $5 billion worth of salmon last year, two-thirds of it to other European countries.
(Reporting by Victoria Klesty and Ole Petter Skonnord; editing by Jane Baird) Keywords: NORWAY FISH/
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