Persson acquires more H&M shares

In the past week Stefan Persson, the chairman of H&M, has purchased shares in the fashion retailer to a value of SKr 2.3 billion. Despite this, the mood on the stock market is sour and H&M shares have tumbled by 32% in the past two years. The reason for the slide is said to be the surge in online sales.

“H&M mainly sells its clothing and accessories in shops, and we are seeing in-store sales drop across Europe due to the increase in online sales,” comments Christopher Lyrhem, SEB share strategist.

Bolund defends tax on chemicals

Sweden’s consumer electronics industry is in uproar over the news that the tax on chemicals, which will take effect on 1 July 2017, will only be levied on Swedish firms. Foreign online vendors selling goods to Swedish consumers will not be liable to the tax.

The Swedish trade association Elektronikbranschen is concerned over the amount of administration the tax will require, as well as the extra cost to consumers, saying the tax will distort the market.

Nevertheless, Financial Markets Minister Per Bolund (Green) defends the tax, saying if is “a tool to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals”.

Tax on chemicals

Sweden is introducing a new tax on chemicals within certain electronic products that are sold in or brought into Sweden. The tax will take effect on 1 July 2017 and will be levied on a range of white goods and electronic products, including computers and mobile phones. The maximum tax will be SKr 320 per product, and the government expects to collect revenues of some SKr 2 billion annually.

All legal entities bringing such products into Sweden will have to fill in a six-page tax form and pay the tax within 5 days. Large companies will be granted some leeway.

Electrolux, one of the firms affected by the new tax, is less than impressed, saying the legislation is laborious. The Swedish Catering Equipment Manufacturers and Distributors Association is also critical, saying the cost of administrating the tax will be far higher than the revenue the government expects to collect.

Andersson: Taxpayers tired of Nordea’s games

Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson has criticised the Danish government’s attempts to persuade Nordea to place its head office in Copenhagen. “It sounds as though the Danish government is prepared to compete by easing the rules on the finance market. That is a path that the Swedish government will not tread,” she said.

She has also berated CEO Casper von Koskull, saying “many taxpayers, who saved the bank in the 90s, are tired of Nordea’s games”.

Dispute over Nordea’s head office

Both parties could end up losing in the dispute over Nordea’s head office, according to several commentators. Nordea has threatened to move its headquarters out of Sweden as a result of the political decision to raise the fees for the resolution reserve (to aid banks in the case of a financial crisis – ed.).

However, although the government has so far focused on the positive elements of a Nordea move for taxpayers, an anonymous source to SvD points out, “It would make big international news. It could lead to a discussion about the business climate in Sweden, something the government does not want.” On the other hand Nordea risks disappointing customers, as the move could be perceived as a rejection of the bank’s largest market.

Meanwhile, writing in Dagens Industri today, MEP Gunnar Hökmark accuses the government of undermining Sweden’s competitiveness with the new bank tax and says that it is incomprehensible that Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson want to bring in this tax, which is making Nordea, the Nordic countries’ largest bank consider moving.

Pressure at H&M’s AGM

Clothing giant H&M’s AGM on Wednesday was the ninth under Karl-Johan Persson as CEO. He is now one of the longest serving CEOs on the OMXS30. However investors with shares in H&M during his steerage have made a bad deal. The shares have had an annual total return of under seven per cent, which is eleven percentage points lower than the annual return of the Stockholm stock market total return index, SIX Return.

To boost confidence institutional owners want DI to report more information about the progress of the company’s concept brands (see SPR 10/5 Early Ed.). Neither chair Stefan Persson or CEO Karl-Johan Persson gave interviews at the AGM, but Karl-Johan Persson said, “We listen to good ideas, take them in and discuss whether we can do better. It is always a balancing act. We think that it is most important for the shareholders that we have lots of focus on the customers and the business. We have annual and biannual press conference when I meet investors and analysts.”

Three lost years for welfare

In Dagens Industri today, in response to the government’s presentation of the Reepalu welfare inquiry yesterday, Håkan Tenelius, from the Association of Private Care Providers (Vårdföretagarna), writes, “Many thought that a solid inquiry would be able to present proposals that secured quality as well as freedom of choice and diversity. However instead it brought macabre, theoretical calculation models which no minister with self esteem can present to parliament.”

He writes, in the reference group, “it was clear… that the inquiry has not had any ambition to constructively contribute to the development of quality in welfare” and is doubtful of the quality measurements currently used. “The Reepalu inquiry’s answer is three lost years for welfare.”

He urges the alliance to take the initiative and the majority in the Riksdag must do what it can to bring about a process for authorisation for all welfare providers.

Norway difficult trade partner

Last year Swedish companies sold goods to Norway worth SKr 124 billion and services worth SKr 91 billion, making it Sweden’s largest export country. However Anna Stellinger, director general of Sweden’s National Board of Trade says, “Companies expect it to be easy to trade with Norway, but it is difficult.”

The board was tasked by the government to survey businesses to see where the greatest trade difficulties occur. Among the third of companies that experiences problems with exports to a non-EU countries, almost all singled out Norway, followed by Russia, China, Brazil, the US and India. Bureaucratic times and difficult processes for customs are among the problems.

A third of companies believe it is important for Sweden to bring about better trade conditions with Norway. The Board of Trade believes that the survey indicates that the choice of countries in the export strategy ought to be narrower.

Vattenfall demands compensation

Dutch energy company Vandebron, the Triodos bank and the City of Amsterdam are behind an initiative to buy Hemweg 8, an old and inefficient coal-fired plant in the city (ed.). They have offered Vattenfall subsidiary Nuon the equivalent of some SKr 50 million for the plant, which they want to close as soon as possible.

Vattenfall has rejected the bid, and has instead demanded 55 million euros of the Netherlands to close the plant ahead of time.