Increasing possibility of prosecution

Lundin Petroleum believes the probability has increased that Board Chairman Ian Lundin and CEO Alex Schneiter will face charges over possible crimes against international humanitarian law in Sudan.

The two were questioned by the Swedish international prosecutor last year and formally notified in November 2016 that they were suspected of committing international crimes in Sudan between 1997 and 2003. Lundin Oil and Lundin Petroleum operated in South Sudan at that time. The CEO and chairman have since been summoned for further questioning in 2017.

“It is not a good sign that the prosecutor has not closed the case,” says a well-informed source to business daily Dagens Industri.

​Doubts about Patriot

The Swedish Armed Forces’ main argument for the purchase of Patriot is that the air defence system protects Sweden against ballistic missiles.

However this week the New York Times published an article in which the Patriot’s capacity against ballistic missiles was put in doubt. On 4 November Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a Burqan 2 missile towards the capital of Saudi Arabia. As it flew towards Riyadh it was met by four Patriot missiles. Debris was strewn across the centre of the city and the official version is that the debris proves the missile was shot down.

However missile experts who have analysed pictures and film say the missile detonated close to the terminal building at Riyadh’s airport.

Only three days after the attack, Sweden’s government decided to choose the Patriot system and instructed the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) to begin negotiations with the US.

Dagens Industri (DI) reports that its sources have said the Armed Forces can afford to buy 60-70 missiles for the Patriot system, and only a few of the advanced PAC-3 MSE, which cost SEK 50 million each. Last week DI reported that France and Eurosam quoted EUR 850 million for a package with SAMP/T, which covers Sweden’s entire air defence needs.

Government’s capital requirements threat to pensions

The government wants to go further than the EU when it comes to capital requirements for some occupational pension insurance plans. This could worsen the returns, by up to 20 per cent, for those who choose safer alternatives with guaranteed returns, write Anna Falck from the Swedish Agency for Government Employers (Arbetsgivarverket), Lena Emanuelsson chair of Saco-S, Swedish Confederation of Professional Associations, Åsa Erba-Stenhammar head of negotiations at the Public Employees’ Negotiation Council (OFR) and Helen Thornberg from the Swedish Union for Service and Communications Employees (Seko).

The EU’s occupational pension directive is to be implemented in Swedish law. The four welcome that the government is going to introduce an independent regulation for service pension companies. However, they believe it is difficult to motivate going further than other countries.

They want the rules to be formed so that the current traffic light system remains at the same level. Occupational pensions are not only essential for individual pensioners but also for society and the creation of capital in society through long-term saving.

Bitcoin is an “absurd” construction

Nordea’s CEO Casper von Koskull has called Bitcoin an “absurd” construction that defies logic although says its blockchain technology is “vital”, in an interview with Bloomberg. “When you look at Bitcoin, history shows that new currencies have come and gone.” He cannot see where Bitcoin fits in in terms of financial crime and rules. “The financial system is only as strong as its weakest link,” he adds.

On Tuesday it was reported that Nordea and several other big foreign banks are investing in a platform for blockchain technology that is to make trade easier and which is to be accessible to their customers across all the Nordic countries. Nordea is becoming a partner in the consortium We.trade, which together with IBM is developing the platform.

It is expected to be launched in the second quarter of 2018 and other banks will be able to join the open platform.

Anders Borg warns of EU banking union

Anders Borg, former finance minister, is back in the public eye again after an incident in Stockholm’s archipelago in the summer. The high-profile scandal forced Borg to leave several prestigious positions and he has now changed his professional direction towards investment and global analysis. He has also taken on the role of commentator.
A major theme for him is the EU banking union. “For me there are two decisive reasons for why Sweden should not become a member. The first is that, as a non-euro country, we would lack influence. The second is that they have chosen to handle the banking crisis in a way that does not work,” he says.
He also approves of the Riksbank’s decision to keep minus interest rates although would like to see labour and housing market reforms.

Rollén: hedge funds digging dirt

In an interview with Dagens Industri (DI), Hexagon’s CEO Ola Rollén discusses the reality of his trial for insider trading, calling it a “cruel world”.

He tells DI that hedge funds have commissioned private detectives to interview fired employees to find dirt on him. “However the silver lining is that they found nothing,” he adds.

He says, “There has been a lawyer for five weeks at the back of the court. Who do you think he represents? It is a hedge fund. It is an unbelievable game around this, and it is not me they are out after, but they want to get ahead with information and make money on falling Hexagon shares.”

He did not speculate on the outcome of the trial, which will become clear in January.

New amortisation requirement

In light of concerns around household debt levels, Financial Markets Minister Per Bolund announced on Thursday that tougher amortisation requirements will be introduced for homeowners as of 1 March 2018. All new mortgage holders who borrow more than 4.5 times their gross income will have to amortise at least 1% of the debt, in addition to the existing requirement.

The new requirement will have the most impact in Stockholm and Gothenburg, where property prices are highest. In Stockholm, 30% of all new mortgage holders will be affected.

Elisabeth Svantesson, the Moderate spokesperson on economic policy, is critical, pointing out that house prices are already falling and that such a measure could lead to a further drop in prices. She calls for major reform of the housing market instead.

Andreas Hatzigeorgiou, chief economist at the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, believes the new requirement will do more harm than good and curb growth in the region.

Apoteksgruppen sold to Euroapotheca

Lithuania’s Euroapotheca, which owns around 450 pharmacies in the Baltics, Ukraine and Poland, has signed an agreement with the Swedish government to buy Apoteksgruppen i Sverige Holding (AGHAB) for SEK 1.7 billion.

AGHAB provides franchise and management to 189 pharmacies operating under the Apoteksgruppen brand and will buy out 159 of the 189 pharmacies.

Swedish Enterprise Minister Mikael Damberg is pleased with the process and the price.

The deal is subject to approval by the Swedish regulatory authorities.

Hesitant minister

Sweden’s central bank, the Riksbank, and the Financial Supervisory Authority (Finansinspektionen) are pushing for tougher amortisation requirements in order to curb household debt but Green Housing Minister Peter Eriksson is hesitant, given that the property market is starting to balance.

The National Board of Housing, Building and Planning (Boverket) has said its forecast that 76,000 homes will be built in Sweden in 2017 will not be realised. Ericsson is not concerned, however, saying: “Even if “just” 70,000 homes are built this year, it is still more than last year. And it is only a couple of years since Boverket said we could not build more than 40,000 homes a year.”

A drop in the number of expensive homes under construction is not a problem. On the contrary, it will allow more affordable homes to be built, argues the minister, who does not hold with analysts who warn of a price collapse. “The Swedish economy is strong, unemployment is falling and global growth is also strong. There is little to suggest that prices will collapse,” he says