The Norwegian government petroleum fund is set to continue its diversification into international equities with the announcement, last month, of a competition for eight equity mandates covering five regions and countries.

The mandates awarded by Norges Bank, which is overseeing the fund's investments, cover North America, the UK, Europe (ex UK and Norway) Japan and Asia/Oceania (ex Japan). Managers are invited to submit offers for both active equity management and enhanced index management for the first three countries/regions and for active management for Japan and for Asia.

The minimum size will be $100m for each enhanced index mandate and $50m for an active mandate but the exact size of each mandate is still to be decided.

In the active management mandates, each manager will be subject to clearly defined restrictions regarding the amount of risk they can take but will be able to choose between sectors, companies and/or markets on the basis of their own analyses.

Managers of the enhanced index mandates - described by Norges Bank as a cross between active equity management and index management - will be able to take some risks in relation to specified share indices.

The mandates carry further restrictions, in that managers can only invest in companies listed on 21 country stock exchanges specified by the Ministry of Finance last year, while the fund can own no more than 1% of the equity capital of any one company.

The total portfolio will have a strategic asset allocation of 50% Europe, 30% America and 20% Asia. All the mandates will use the FT/Standard & Poor's A benchmark for each of the countries and regions.

Norges Bank has also confirmed the appointment of Chase Manhattan as global custodian and that the bulk of the equity portion was awarded to four pure index managers in the autumn of last year.

Details of the competition are included on the Norges Bank website at John Lappin