Constructive meeting with Malta

Sweden and Malta are to work together on the criminal investigation into Falcon Funds, the pension company suspected of having defrauded billions from Swedish pension savers.

On Wednesday, prosecutor Arne Fors was in The Hague to discuss the criminal investigation with representatives from Malta. Over a billion kronor of pension savings is still missing since the Swedish Pensions Agency reported the fund company Falcon Funds in October.

Arne Fors called it a “constructive meeting” and investigators in Sweden and Malta have a fairly similar view of events in the Malta-registered pension company and which individuals are suspected, according to the prosecutor.

However the Swedish Economic Crime Authority is still waiting for important account statements from Malta that are needed to be able to trace the missing funds.

Minister hints at reforms

GDP in Sweden grew by 1.0% in the fourth quarter of 2016, compared with the preceding quarter, and 2.3% compared to the same quarter in 2015, according to Statistics Sweden.

Growth in exports of goods and services accounted for much of the increase while imports fell slightly. Increased household consumption, public consumption and investments also contributed.

However the increase in GDP per inhabitant was lower: 0.7% from Q4 2015 to Q4 2016, compared with a total increase of 2.3%. “This shows that the rise in GDP is not only a result of the growth in population, contrary to what many people believe,” says Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson. She is satisfied with GDP growth of 3.3% for 2016, above most EU countries.

Andersson highlighted that there is a surplus of SKr 40 billion in the public finances, saying, “This is mainly the result of the government’s work.” She also hinted that if the next GDP forecast is higher then this could create scope for more reforms in the budget.

External experts to review crisis

DN has previously reported that the Swedish-Danish Postnord is in crisis; a picture confirmed when the company presented its losses of almost SKr 1.6 billion for 2016.

Now Enterprise Minister Mikael Damberg has called in external lawyers and financial advisers to decide how the government should move forward with Postnord.

It is mainly the Danish section that has pulled down the business and Mikael Damberg has reviewed the merger agreement. He points out shortcomings such as not having a long-term perspective and setting far too optimistic forecasts. There are also questions about how the merger’s structure was determined, as Sweden provided 70% of turnover but received only 60% of ownership.

Political risk for multi-billion kronor deals

Five deals worth SKr 2.9 billion were struck with Iranian partners during the Swedish delegation’s visit to Iran at the weekend. Scania, led by CEO Henrik Henriksson, signed two new agreements for a total of 1,350 buses. Henriksson described their relationship with Iranian partner, Mammut, as a way of “spreading the Swedish model”.

However the political risks for those investing in the country are high. The business climate is nervous, not least because of Donald Trump and American sanctions.

Karsten Stroyberg, who is responsible for Danske Bank in the region, the only bank apart from SEB that helps Swedish companies in Iran, says, “It is very complicated and very limited… You cannot have any Americans in the company, you cannot have any American dollars or companies in the agreement.”

Linde concerned

On Thursday afternoon Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced that he would not attend a meeting with US President Donald Trump. His move was a response to a planned border wall between the two countries, and the question of who would pay for it.

For every day that passes Professor Henrik Horn of the Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN) is more and more convinced that Donald Trump intends to realise his trade threats, and that there is a real risk of a trade war, reports Dagens Industri.

Trade Minister Ann Linde (S) is also concerned, saying trade patterns will “deteriorate” when the international rules for global trade are called into question.

However, the minister is keen that Sweden should have good relations with the US, pointing out that Swedish companies employ 330,000 people and is one of the largest investors per capita in the US.

Meanwhile, Anna Stellinger, director general of the National Board of Trade Sweden (Kommerskollegium), fears Donald Trump’s trade action could have direct and indirect impact on Swedish exports and companies.

“The US is our second most important export country in terms of services, and the third most important for exports of goods,” she says, emphasising that 140,000 jobs in Sweden are dependent on US exports.

Duty-free Canada export hope

Both the government and business are hoping for a boost to exports to Canada as duties are waived on the world’s tenth largest economy. Despite protests the CETA agreement will be implemented in February and trade minister Ann Linde (S), says, “I believe that CETA will be a vitamin injection and a lift for Swedish exports to Canada, bringing both new jobs and more growth to Sweden.”

DI reports that exports to Canada fell by 23% between 2006 and 2015, something Ann Linde puts down to high duties and complicated procedures.

Brexit needs hard work

A new report from Business Sweden states that action is needed to attract foreign investment to Sweden after Brexit. The report writes that Sweden is too small and too peripheral a country to automatically win foreign investment. Ann Linde, minister for EU and trade, says, “We need to work harder than other countries need to.”

The main proposal is to increase earmarked investment to sectors in which Sweden has a competitive edge, including the vehicle industry, IT and telecoms and the pharmaceutical industry.

Ann Linde says other countries have already started working aggressively to persuade companies to move there. “In order to be part of the game we need to know the areas in which we have a chance. The report specifies this so now we do not need to spend energy investing in other areas,” she says.

Vital phase for emission rights

Negotiations are heating up in Brussels and Strasbourg over the EU’s most important tool for lowering emissions of carbon dioxide, emissions trading. Today the parliament will make a decision on the issue. Around 13,000 industries will be affected and together could be forced to pay billions of euros more per year for their emissions up until 2030.

However there are widely diverging views and Jytte Guteland (S), who sits in the environmental committee, says, “Everyone was nervous about how we would bring about a solution. It was tough but it ended with an agreement.”

On Monday the Swedish government raised its ambitions saying that fewer industries should be able to avoid paying for their emissions and that more emission rights would be annulled. However Centre Party MEP Fredrick Federley has attacked the government for raising its ambitions only six days before a decision is to be made, saying it is almost impossible to change the position of members at such short notice.

Sweden criticised for policy on tax havens

The Swedish government is doing too little to stop international tax havens for companies, according to Oxfam, one of the world’s largest aid organisations. Oxfam wants to see Sweden working more actively with Country-by-Country Reporting, CBCR, which forces multinational companies to account for sales, profits and tax according to the countries they are operating in. There is a proposal to enforce this at EU level, however, Sweden has not supported it, says Esme Bekout from Oxfam.

Finance minister Magdalena Andersson points out that international work against tax havens has made huge progress. However it is also about compromise and not pushing so far that countries stop cooperating.

Campaign to relocate EMA to Sweden

A number of EU agencies will have to relocate from the UK in the aftermath of Brexit, write ministers Mikael Damberg, Helene Hellmark Knutsson, Gabriel Wikström and Ann Linde in a DI debate article this morning.

Announcing that the government will decide today to go ahead with a campaign to relocate the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to the Stockholm-Uppsala region, the four cite a number of reasons as to why Sweden should host the EMA, including a long tradition of drugs development and production.