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.

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

New amortisation requirement causes division

The Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority, or FSA, said on Monday that all new mortgage holders who borrow more than 4.5 times their gross income must amortise 1 percentage point more of their mortgage per year than is the case at present. It will now be up to the Swedish government to decide what to do.

Opinion is divided, however. Housing Minister Peter Eriksson has openly expressed his doubts but Financial Markets Minister Per Bolund, who is the responsible minister, has warned of the consequences if the proposal is stopped.

The government intends to hold talks with the opposition, but Per Bolund is keen to stress that it will be up to the government rather than parliament to make a decision.

The opposition parties have in principle already said No to the proposal. Elisabeth Svantesson, the Moderate Party spokesperson on economic policy, argues that such a requirement would stop young people from buying a home and could fuel a downturn.

Crisis of confidence threatening FSA chief

While property brokers are warning prices in Stockholm have already fallen by 15%, the issue of new tougher mortgage requirements is to be decided. On Monday the board of the Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA) is to make a decision, although director general Erik Thedéen has already said that he is prepared to go ahead with the proposal.

He has not only defended the proposal but accused critics of representing special interests and exploiting the uncertain market situation to postpone it.

The opposition has already stood against the proposal, so the government is alone. However, although formal approval from the Riksdag is not needed, it is not a good option for the government to make a decision that changes the rules of play on a rocky property market ten months before an election.

Annika Winsth, chief economist at Nordea, says that if the government opposes the new amortisation requirements, the judgement of the FSA is being put in question and Erik Thedéen ought to seriously consider whether he should remain in post.

Consumer assocation demands action

Sweden will take no legal action against Volkswagen over the diesel emissions scandal as prosecutors have no suspicion of wrongdoing against any individual in Sweden.

Following the decision, the Swedish Automobile Association (Motormännens Riksförbund) called on other Swedish authorities to take action.

More than 220,000 cars from Volkswagen, Skoda, Audi and Seat were recalled in Sweden after news of the fixing of diesel emission tests emerged in September 2015.

Soaring staffing agency costs

The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) has set ambitious targets to clamp down on staffing agency costs in the health service. Despite this, costs continue to soar. In 2016, locum staff cost the authorities SEK 4.6 billion, an increase of SEK 2 billion on 2011.

A rise in the retirement rate, combined with a growing need for care and a tougher working environment, has left the health service struggling to find staff. “Many of our members have found themselves in a situation where they have had no other option but to hire agency staff,” SALAR head Hans Karlsson says.

CD calls for change in labour legislation

The Christian Democrats (CD) have joined forces with the Moderates, calling for change in the Employment Protection Act (LAS). Talking to Dagens Industri (DI), party leader Ebba Busch Thor says: “It is obvious that there needs to be a major reform of LAS, which as it stands is doing more harm than good”.

Alliance cooperation has intensified since Ulf Kristersson was elected the new Moderate leader, and ventures to provide the electorate with a credible government alternative are increasing, she tells the newspaper.

Concerns raised over tax proposal

Earlier this year a government-commissioned inquiry proposed that real estate sales in so-called packaging companies should no longer be tax exempt. The CEOs of Swedish property companies, who were asked to comment the proposals, have now submitted their findings to the Ministry of Finance and the general consensus is that a tax hike of some SEK 17 billion on the sector would curb construction, create financial unrest and cause rents to soar.

Disagreement over coal-powered plants

Negotiations to revise the EU’s emissions trading scheme have reached a deadlock after the European Parliament rejected a bid from member states that would have seen EU funds being invested in the modernisation of coal-powered electricity plants.

While disappointed over the standoff, Jytte Guteland, a Social Democratic MEP and member of the European Parliament’s environment committee, is relieved that a responsible decision was taken.

One of the key points of debate is how to fund industry’s shift to cleaner power. Guteland says MEPs agree that EU funds cannot be used to “lock Europe into a fossil-fuelled future”.