Agency warned of merger

Dagens Nyheter yesterday revealed that the Swedish government is drawing up a crisis plan for PostNord, which it owns together with the Danish government. A working document reveals that the government is concerned over profitability and the Danish part of the business is the main problem.

PostNord Denmark has been in the red since 2012 and there are fears among Swedish politicians that taxpayers will end up footing the bill to secure Swedish postal services.

One of the problems is that while the Swedish government owns 60% of the shares, it only has 50% of the vote in PostNord. According to DN, it is virtually impossible to implement any major change, unless all board members are in agreement.

When the merger was agreed in 2008, Nutek, the Swedish agency for economic and regional growth, commented that the deal was a poor one for Sweden.

Meanwhile, Moderate MP Lars Hjälmered, the deputy chair of the parliamentary committee on industry and trade, believes measures need to be taken to ensure the Danish business makes a profit, saying. “PostNord must decide what that is, be it a change in ownership, or streamlining or whatever. But it is obvious that something needs to be done; it cannot be allowed to run at a loss.”

Hard-pressed wind power producers

Some 90 billion kronor have been invested in the expansion of wind power in Sweden, but falling electricity prices have led to a series of write downs. And now electricity certificate prices have plummeted to below 70 kronor a certificate.

Nordea, one of the main lenders to the wind power industry, warns that the situation is dire and that politicians need to take action immediately; otherwise there will be a wave of bankruptcies in the sector.

Trade association Swedish Wind Energy says politicians need to address the deficiencies in the electricity certificate support system for renewable energy as soon as possible but Energy Minister Ibrahim Baylan cannot promise a quick fix. Such a move would create uncertainty and could be “downright dangerous” given the fact that Sweden and Norway have a joint market for electricity certificates.

The minister understands that many are hard-pressed but “it’s also important to stress that this is a market and thereby associated with risk”.

Löfven heads delegation to Iran

Later this week Prime Minister Stefan Löfven will head Sweden’s third delegation to Iran in just over a year. Despite this, Sweden’s exports to Iran have actually fallen in the past year.

Business Sweden’s Magnus Almén says this is because “business takes time” and that many companies are starting from scratch after the easing of sanctions.

Nevertheless a number of companies, including Ericsson and AstraZeneca, stayed in Iran when sanctions bit hardest, and Mohsen Tavakoi, a management consultant and former Iran director for Ericsson, is convinced that those who chose to stay in 2012 made a wise decision in terms of business. “It was a sign of commitment to the country, not the government,” he says.

Companies in the Swedish delegation will include ABB, AstraZeneca, Danske Bank, Ericsson, Sandvik, Scania, SEB, Tetra Pak Iran, Volvo Cars, Volvo Group, Bombardier and the Wallenberg Foundation.

Debt Office concerned

Hans Lindblad, director general of Sweden’s National Debt Office (Riksgälden), is worried over US President Donald Trump’s plans to roll back key financial industry regulations.

He warns that this could increase the risk of a new financial crisis, saying: “Anyone who has seen the effects of a crisis should be concerned”.

Skanska to boycott Trump wall

Skanska CEO Johan Karlström has said the construction company will not help build Donald Trump’s border wall between Mexico and the US. “We believe in openness and equality,” Karlström said during a presentation of the firm’s interim report on Friday.

Skanska posted a pre-tax profit of SKr 3.2 billion for the fourth quarter and an operating profit of SKr 3.3 billion.

CEO apologises for failure

On Wednesday evening Swedbank cash machines malfunctioned and customers with bankcards were able to withdraw more money than they had in their accounts. “I can only apologise for what happened, which meant that many customers yesterday (read Wednesday) could not use our bankcard products,” says CEO Birgitte Bonnesen.

The Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA) has confirmed it received notification from Swedbank but would not say more without a fuller report from the bank.

Nevertheless Birgitte Bonnesen could not hide her joy when presenting the bank’s interim report. Operating profits for the fourth quarter were SKr 5.1 billion, somewhat higher than expected, and better than the previous fourth quarter. The bank is raising its dividend to 13.2 kronor per share. Swedbank’s shares rose 0.5% yesterday.

FSA inquiry continues

The Financial Supervisory Authority’s (FSA) massive investigation into money laundering and terror financing in the wake of the Panama Papers leak has taken an important step forward, reveals director general Erik Thedéen in an interview. He tells SvD business that he has sent a verification letter to the four main banks asking them to check the information the FSA has found and add any comments. The authority will then decide whether to take it further.

Furthermore on Tuesday the FSA, together with the Police’s Financial Intelligence Unit, announced new efforts to stop money laundering and the financing of terrorism. This time the focus is on smaller players and the spotlight is being turned on companies that send money abroad and quick loan companies.