Nordea aims to win over shareholders

Nordea’s CEO Casper von Koskull held a secret meeting on Tuesday with a number of minority shareholders, including AMF, Swedbank Robur and the AP pension funds, in an attempt to convince them that a move of the bank’s head office to Helsinki is in their best interest.

A move will require the approval of at least two-thirds of shareholders at next year’s AGM, but some of the larger minority shareholders are said to be sceptical to the plan. “As a shareholder in Nordea, you have to ask yourself if the value of your investment may decrease with the Finnish tradition of running a company,” says one shareholder who wishes to remain anonymous.

Sweden heads for clash with EU

Chinese investment in the EU increased by 75 per cent in 2016 and amounted to EUR 35.1 billion, according to the Rhodium Group. Concerns that China could gain control of assets affecting national security have led heavyweight nations such as Germany, France and Italy to urge a rethink of foreign investments in the EU, and in a speech today, Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is expected to lay out plans for a more robust screening of trade.

The Swedish government is opposed to more thorough vetting of foreign investments, with EU Affairs and Trade Minister Ann Linde describing the move as “protectionist”. “I believe the opportunities the WTO agreement gives Sweden and other EU member states are adequate,” she says.

In contrast, Thomas Lagerqvist, chair of the Sweden-China Trade Council, welcomes a discussion on tighter screening, saying: “It is naïve of Sweden to believe there is no risk”.

Strengthening ties with Russia

Despite conflicting views on a number of issues, EU Affairs and Trade Minister Ann Linde recognises that both Sweden and Russia share an aim to work towards realising the huge potential in bilateral economic relations.

Writing in Dagens Industri , ahead of her visit to Russia on 12-13 September, the minister points to areas of cooperation between the two countries, including trade, organised crime, culture and student exchange, and underlines the fact that Sweden is the fifth largest direct investor in Russia, discounting tax havens. By way of example, one Swedish company has invested close to SEK 60 billion in Russia since 2001.

Trade between Russia and Sweden amounted to some SEK 48 billion in 2016 and there is potential for Swedish exports to grow. The Russian government’s aim is to invest in energy efficiency and environmental protection, and Linde looks forward to discussing ways to boost cooperation in these, and other, areas with her Russian counterpart.

Nordea: we have not negotiated

On Thursday Nordea held a press conference at its Helsinki, which will next year host key employees who will be moved from Stockholm.

When asked why it was not enough that the Swedish government backed down over the resolution reserve fee, CEO Casper von Koskull said, “Nordea is a bank with four domestic markets. We are also a very large bank. It is therefore difficult to exist under one regulation that is based on one country.” For him it is a natural step to become part of the European banking union and be regulated by the Single Supervisory Mechanism, SSM.

He also comments that there never was any negotiation. “We have not been shopping around.” Instead the bank has carried out a thorough analysis.

Meanwhile Swedbank is in a good position to take over dissatisfied customers who leave Nordea, says Swedbank’s head of press Josefine Uppling.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven understands that many Swedes are upset. “Here we have a bank that has twice received significant help. The whole reason the bank exists is because of Swedish taxpayers and the thanks for that is: we are moving the head office,” he says.

Andersson disappointed

Social Democratic Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson said she was disappointed to hear the news of Nordea’s move to Finland but saw no reason to review government policy. The government has a responsibility to ensure financial stability and provide a sound environment for companies, she commented, pointing out that Nordea had posted a profit of SEK 40 billion in 2016.

Green Financial Markets Minister Per Bolund said there was broad political unity in Sweden not to join the banking union for the time being. However, the government had now decided to analyse the advantages and disadvantages of Swedish membership.

Ulf Kristersson, the Moderate economic policy spokesman, commented that the government, with its plans for extra regulation and a bank tax, had “undermined confidence that Sweden is a country with stable long-term regulation”.

Ambitious goals lift Volvo’s shares

AB Volvo’s shares gained over 7% on Friday after the vehicle giant presented a new aggressive target for its operating margin. The operating margins are to be ten per cent over an economic cycle.

When asked whether this is a realistic goal, head of investor relations, Christer Johansson, said, “This is a long-term goal and not a vision. At our capital market day earlier this year we presented a number of priority areas for gradually improving profitability.”