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.

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.

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.

Minister threatens to toughen up law

Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson has turned on the financial elite who shop around the world in search of the lowest taxes and is prepared to toughen legislation.

“It is completely unacceptable that people spend so much … time and energy to avoid paying tax,” she says. However, “The problem is that if you are really going to make it difficult to tax plan then you need to go outside the EU and introduce capital restrictions. When companies actively exploit the possibilities, it means tougher legislation makes it more difficult for everyone who runs a company.”

Östling steps down

“What the hell do I get for my money, not much,” were the words uttered by Leif Östling, chair of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, when asked by SVT about his tax arrangements in Malta and Luxembourg, revealed during the Paradise Papers leak in November.

He announced yesterday that he would leave his post as chair although would not answer any follow-up questions. The official picture is that he has successfully managed to launch a new power and decision-making structure within the Confederation. However Dagens Industri (DI) reports that a number of representatives from the board made it clear that confidence in him had been lost following his comment.

Another source tells DI that the relationship between CEO Carola Lemne and Leif Östling did not work. “From day one he tried to manoeuvre her out of the way, but failed,” says the source. The struggle between the chair and CEO also reflects a deeper conflict between industrial and service companies. The Association of Swedish Engineering Industries and the Swedish Association of Industrial Employers backed Östling after the revelations while criticism came from Almega – the Employers’ Organisation for the Swedish Service Sector and the Association of Private Care Providers.

There is a general understanding that the Confederation is in trouble and has been described as outdated and slow to change. The change of chair could also lead to a change of CEO, writes DI.

22 years needed to save for property in Stockholm

A new report from Mäklarhuset shows that the difference in how many years it takes to save up for a deposit for a house depends on the city and profession, reports SvD. The report shows that it takes the longest time in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Uppsala. For an auxiliary nurse in Stockholm it takes 22 years to save up the deposit.

Erik Wikander, CEO of Mäklarhuset, says that it is time for politicians to add stimulus to the threats. “When there is no functioning housing market and a balance between owned and rented property, it creates a pressurised situation for young people. The regulations that have been brought in over the past five years have focused on limiting debt. However there needs also to be stimulus so that the entire housing market is used,” says Erik Wikander.

Increase in manufacturing output

The Association of Swedish Engineering Industries (Teknikföretagen) forecasts a 12% increase in manufacturing output in 2017, and a 5% increase in 2018. The high level of output is due to global demand, although the automotive industry is in a lull. In Sweden, however, the automotive industry is fuelling growth in the engineering industries.