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.

Threat of strikes hangs over companies

Next week there is the threat of three strikes within Almega’s contract areas. The heart of the Swedish vehicle industry could be paralysed and it could cause commuters major problems. A twenty-year-old Swedish negotiation model is on the line in the dispute.

In the past few days the agreement negotiations have become heated, and it is the Swedish Trade Union Confederation’s (LO) proposal to increase the wages of low-wage workers by 6.5% over three years that is causing the problem. The painters at Volvo Cars, the assembly in Torslanda, vehicle support at Volvo Powertrain but also Ringhals’s nuclear power station are at risk of being called out on strike. There could also be a strike within the rail agreement, which could hit commuters.

Considering legal proceedings against 3i

 

In February 2015 3i put Eltel, which provides technical services for infrastructure services, on the stock market and then dumped the rest of its shares several months before an accountancy problem was discovered in the autumn. Buyers included well-known Swedish funds and pension companies which now feel that they were kept in the dark. According to DI’s sources several of the major shareholders are considering taking legal action against 3i.

The huge power transmission project in Africa, which was accounted for wrongly, causing Eltel major losses, goes back to 2014 when 3i and BNP Paribas owned the company. On Tuesday evening the board decided to report former CEO Axel Hjärne to the police for accounting violations and/or fraud. The shock decision sent the share price plummeting.

Crackdown on estate agents

The Swedish Consumer Agency (Konsumentverket) and the government want to put more pressure on estate agents. From a consumer perspective, the estate agent market is one of the ten most problematic markets, according to a new report by Konsumentverket. “When we buy a property, it is often the biggest purchase we make and there are high risks associated with these kinds of purchases,” says Minister for Consumer Affairs Per Bolund.

Konsumentverket highlights problems such as excessively low prices being set to attract interest, lack of knowledge about the role of the estate agent and lack of independent advice. The agency wants to see a consumer agency for property purchases with personal, qualified and independent advice. The agency also wants a law or regulation that forces estate agents to state an “assessed market value” for the property.