Slowly but surely the proportion of women on the boards of listed companies is increasing. However the target in the government’s threat, if 40% is not accomplished by the autumn quota legislation will be brought in, is not going to be met.
Annika Elias, chair of Ledarna, Sweden’s organisation for managers, says, “It is incomprehensible that Swedish companies cannot fix this once and for all and ensure that there is equality on company boards.”
According to the Allbright Foundation’s summary, so far, as 214 of 282 nomination committees have submitted their proposals, there looks set to be an average of 30 percent of women in the boardroom.
The government recently announced it wants Sweden to move towards a completely renewable energy system, a decision that has caused concern because of potential supply shortages for business if nuclear power is phased out. However, on Wednesday Energy Minister Ibrahim Baylan clarified that the new model does not necessarily mean the end for Swedish nuclear power.
If there is a strictly business line basis for building new nuclear power plants then this should be made politically possible, he stated. “There may be a situation where we produce 120% of our need and export the rest,” he says. However, he does not believe this will happen. “Nuclear power is experiencing difficulties with or without taxes and will sooner or later be phased out,” he says.
Instead Ibrahim Baylan considers hydropower to have huge potential to supply the basic industries. “We need to reduce the political risk so that the market is able to invest,” he says.
The conflict within the construction industry risks being a long one. Yesterday a total of 2,500 construction workers went out on strike, affecting at least four times as many workers, and employers reacted with a lock-out. At least 9,700, and up to 12,000, workers will be locked out of workplaces from 22 April, if no agreement is reached.
According to the Swedish Construction Federation (Sveriges Byggindustrier), construction companies are losing between SKr 100 and 200 million every day. The union, Byggnads wants a pay rise of 3.2% and the industry benchmark for pay rises to be set at 2.2%
State appointed negotiator Jan Sjölin, who has been helping the parties try to resolve the conflict, says the situation is in deadlock. “There will be no negotiations for the next few days,” he says.”
The government’s investigator Anders Sundström, recently ousted as chair of Swedbank, presented his solution yesterday for the politically controversial struggle over Bromma Airport.
He wants to expand Arlanda with a fourth runway as he estimates the flights to and from the airport will have doubled by 2040. On the other hand Bromma, which has barely a third of domestic traffic, is not needed, he concludes. Instead Stockholm would be able to build 30,000 houses in its place.
He claims the Arlanda project must be complete by 2035, as it is of utmost importance for Stockholm to be able to compete with capital cities in neighbouring countries. Therefore Bromma Airport can remain until 2038, when its current contract expires.
Arlanda has been chosen as one of few airports where passengers could pass through US customs before their journey begins.
According to Mikael Damberg, minister for enterprise, Sweden is participating in negotiations and he hopes for an agreement later this year. “It would ease travel and make Arlanda an attractive airport for airlines that want simple routes between Europe and the USA. It also means a lot to those companies with their head offices close to Arlanda and it could attract new companies here.”
Among the airlines, Norwegian is very positive although its enthusiasm is not shared by SAS, where there is concern the pre-clearance could benefit Norwegian and create problems for SAS. For example, extra time would be needed for passing through customs, which could worsen connections for those flying into Arlanda from other parts of the country.
It is not unusual for small companies to have to wait 90-120 days for payments, meaning that recruitment and investment must wait. Legislation passed three years ago has not had any effect, according to suppliers, and they are critical of Enterprise Minister, Michael Damberg. The law means payments within the public sector must be made within 30 days but for private companies it is an issue of negotiation.
Michael Damberg says he is aware that long payment times are damaging to jobs growth but wants to first evaluate the earlier legislation before proposing new changes.
On Tuesday morning nine major owners of Swedbank were summoned to a meeting by the nomination committee to try and unite the ownership on the issue of Anders Sundström remaining as chairman in view of the AGM next week. However the meeting ended in an uprising as several institutions declared that they did not intend to support the re-election of Anders Sundström. To avoid a chaotic AGM the committee were forced to call Sundström and inform him that he had been fired.
According to information DI has, it is the handling of CEO Michael Wolf’s resignation and private property deals involving several directors, which is behind the action.
Anders Sundström says, “I ought to have started the process of recruiting a new CEO earlier. The other thing is that we ought to have understood earlier what Dagens Industri highlighted in these property deals.”
During election campaigns the Green Party set the goal of closing at least two nuclear power reactors during the mandate period. So far the closure of four of Sweden’s ten reactors has been announced. At the weekend the government announced the remaining six reactors will be phased out within 20 years. Lise Nordin, Green Party spokesperson on energy, considers the decision a major success.
However the alliance parties are critical. “They say they want to use the alliance’s energy agreement, but that is not true. It says nothing about phasing out nuclear power within 20 years as the government now wants, which is bad for both the environment and industry’s competitiveness,” says Maria Weimer, the Liberals energy spokesperson.
In the past three years state company Vattenfall has declared total losses of SKr 52 billion, mainly due to write-downs in the value of power plants, which have dramatically lost value owing to falling electricity prices.
A sensitivity analysis carried out by Vattenfall shows the threat of new write-downs is not over. Even slight falls in the price of electricity could trigger significant hits to the results. A future fall of 5% in the price of electricity with no change to the cost of fuel and emission rights would lead to a reduction in the value of fossil-based assets in Germany and the Netherlands of between 15 and 27%, the analysis shows.
A report on the economic situation in the energy sector was brought before the energy commission yesterday. Declining profitability risks closing Swedish nuclear power, which represents 40% of the country’s energy, early, according to the industry. And industry organisation Swedenergy (Svensk energi) claims output tax makes up a quarter of all production costs.
Minister for Energy, Ibrahim Baylan (S), commented that all electricity production is struggling with low prices, and that taxes must be examined. Nuclear providers are facing major investment decisions, which must be taken before the middle of the year to meet tighter safety requirements after the Fukushima accident in Japan. Baylan has now promised the decision about output tax will be made by the middle of May.