Norsk Hydro Fourth Quarter Earnings Plunge 68%

Oil and light metals group Norsk Hydro said Monday fourth-quarter profit fell 68% as the company reported earnings a day earlier than scheduled after financial information was leaked.

The company presented its earnings a day ahead of schedule after the Norwegian business newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv reported that confidential information from its results had been leaked to the stock market, a news release said.

Both the bourse and the Financial Supervisory Authority of Norway announced plans to investigate the information leak, and whether it had an influence on Norsk Hydro's share price.

Net profit for the three months through December was 1.3 billion kroner ($215 million) compared with 4.2 billion kroner a year earlier. Revenue rose to 45.7 billion kroner ($7.4 billion) from 44.5 billion kroner a year earlier.

Norsk Hydro took a write-down in the value of Front Runner field and other nine fields in the Gulf of Mexico, which was announced last month.

For 2006 as a whole the Oslo-based group reported an 11% increase in net income to 17.4 billion kroner ($2.8 billion) compared with 15.6 billion kroner a year earlier. Revenue for the year rose nearly 17% to 200.7 billion kroner ($32.1 billion).

Norsk Hydro shares declined 0.4% to 195 kroner ($31.20) in midday trading on the Oslo stock exchange.

Norsk Hydro employs about 33,000 people in 40 countries.