Malmström surprised by French move

French President François Hollande does not intend to support a trade deal with the USA in its present form, he said at a press conference and demanded that negotiations end.

His comments have surprised European Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, who says, “The negotiations are underway and I have a telephone meeting with the USA’s trade minister today.”

According to Matthias Fekl, France’s trade minister, there is no longer political support for the negotiations and he is planning to propose, at the meeting of trade ministers in Bratislava in September, that the negotiations are ended so that they can start again on a solid foundation. This comes several days after German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel claimed negotiations had stranded.

Malmström says: “You must remember that in France and Germany, but also in Austria and Belgium, there is very strong opposition to TTIP, and that is affecting the debate and the ministers’ approaches. However the German government is completely behind TTIP and the majority of the countries support it.”

Sweden still hoping for TTIP

The free trade agreement between the USA and the EU, TTIP, has been declared dead by French and German ministers. German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that it was due to the EU not wanting to bow to American demands and French Trade Minister Matthias Fekl said that there was no will from the Americans to continue.

However the Swedish government, which would like to have an agreement, says that the negotiations continue and is still hoping to reach an agreement. EU and Trade Minister Ann Linde (S), says, “There is no information that indicates the negotiations have stranded.”

Supporters of TTIP consider the German comments to be a domestic political manoeuvre.

Economist warn of Trump victory

With just over ten weeks remaining until the election in the USA more economists are warning of the effects of a Trump victory. Many dread that, as promised, he will tear up existing trade agreements. Arne Bigsten, professor in economy at the Gothenburg School of Business, says, “Sweden is very integrated and very dependent on the world markets being open.”

Willem Buiter, head economist at Citigroup, predicts that global growth could fall by 0.7-0.8% if Trump wins, but warns that the world is facing more protectionism whoever wins. Professor Bigsten agrees: “It could lead to some kind of more or less declared trade war in which we trade less with one another.”

Disappointing data

The National Institute of Economic Research’s Economic Tendency Indicator, which summarises how consumers and firms view the economy, fell from 102.3 in July to 100.0 in August. This was the lowest level since October 2013 (99.9) and clearly under the 102.3 that analysts had forecast.

The decrease was mainly due to weaker sentiment in the manufacturing industry, with the indicator falling from 102.9 in July to 97.7 in August. There was a decline in export orders, especially in the electronics and automotive industries.

Torbjörn Isaksson, chief analyst at Nordea, noted in a letter to customers that the figures indicated that GDP growth in Sweden is now slowing down markedly, and forecast moderate GDP growth of 2.5 per cent. He also noted that this would make it harder to achieve the 2 per cent inflation target.

There was disappointing data from Business Sweden as well on Thursday, with the Export Managers’ Index falling from 58.8 in the second quarter to 53.9 in the third quarter.

Increased risks to economy

Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson (S) has revised down the government’s GDP growth forecast to 3.5 per cent, from 3.8 per cent, in 2016, but has revised the forecast up to 2.3 per cent, from 2.2 per cent, in 2017. The Swedish economy is healthy with improved public finances and falling unemployment, and the government can boost spending by SKr 24 billion in the autumn budget.

Erik Penser’s chief economist Sven-Arne Svensson presented the bank’s economic outlook on Wednesday, forecasting GDP growth of 3.2 per cent in 2016 and 2.0 per cent in 2017.

Sweden is expected to continue to outperform most other countries in terms of the current account surplus, public debt, the savings ratio and the labour market. However, there are increased risks to the economy, stressed Svensson.

Getinge ousts CEO

Medical technology group Getinge has fired its chief executive Alex Myers after just 18 months on the job. Joacim Lindoff, head of the Surgical Workflows division, has been appointed as acting CEO.

Under Alex Myers’ leadership, Getting has failed to meet analysts’ forecasts, and the group’s shares have fallen by 21.5% so far this year. By comparison, the OMXS30 large cap index has fallen 3%.

Myers attempts to centralise the company structure and to hire McKinsey management consultants failed to impress chairman Carl Bennet who prefers a decentralised structure and who is of the opinion that it is the executives and employees in a company that should drive change, not consultants.

Tech companies facing lay offs

 

After network hardware giant Cisco last week announced plans to lay off 5,500 employees (ed.), Trip Chowdhry, an analyst at Global Equities Research, raised his estimate on the number of lay offs in the US tech industry to 370,000 this year and said there was more pain to come.

The Swedish tech industry in Kista is close to the eye of the storm, as many of the established companies have businesses in markets that are not longer expanding, Jan Dworsky, strategist at Handelsbanken, has since told DN, describing how companies such as Google are taking market share from the likes of Nokia.

“As companies become large, it becomes hard to maintain the culture of innovation and dynamism in the company. It’s more about taking care of what you have created,” he said.

Meanwhile, Per Norlander, union negotiator at Ericsson, expects the telecom giant’s ongoing savings package to be extensive; just how many of the company’s 16,000 employees in Sweden will be affected is hard to assess

Moderates promise to sell state firms

The Moderate Party has now made it clear that it plans to try and sell off more state companies if it wins the 2018 election. It has already singled out Telia, SAS and SBAB as objects for sale. Lars Hjälmered, party spokesperson for enterprise, says, “We do not consider the state to have a role to play in these companies.”

He is also critical of how Mikael Damberg, minister for enterprise and innovation, is dealing with the issue: “It is a very worrying situation that is being handled precariously. If you compare Mikael Damberg’s talk during the election campaign with how he has then managed the companies, there is a huge discrepancy.”

In particular he is critical of the extra dividends the state has extracted; SKr 6.5 billion from Akademiska Hus, the academic property company, and SKr 1.7 billion from SJ, the rail operator. “Of course that has an effect on the railways and the potential to build student accommodation. And they did that because of the desperation they have as a result of increasing costs for immigration and sick absences,” he says.

Handelsbanken CEO: “Didn’t meet the mark”

After Handelsbanken’s CEO Frank Vang-Jensen was unexpectedly fired yesterday following only 17 months in the post, chair Pär Boman addressed a press conference to answer why.

The main issue was the bank’s decentralised business model with strong and self-sufficient branches. “Being in charge of Handelsbanken and leading other self-sufficient managers is a very different kind of leadership compared to many other companies,” he said.

Frank Vang-Jensen, as well as planning to reduce the number of branches from 463 to 400, tried to centralise the bank’s operations more than local branch managers could accept. Boman also said, “Frank quite simply didn’t meet the mark to be CEO at Handelsbanken.”

Anders Bouvin, with over 30 years of experience at Handelsbanken, is taking over as CEO.

New CEO for Handelsbanken

Handelsbanken’s CEO Frank Vang-Jensen has been fired. In a press release this morning, the board of the bank said, “a change of CEO ought to take place now”. Chair Pär Boman continued, “The decision is only a question of the individual. Handelsbanken remains strong and our long-term goals are still in place.”

Vang-Jensen has been CEO since March 2015 when he took over from Pär Boman who became chair. Pär Boman says Vang-Jensen’s style of leadership does not match Handelsbanken’s “very decentralised way of working”.