Swedbank’s poor quality envelopes

Swedbank sends sensitive, personal information concerning the estates of deceased persons in poor quality envelopes to customers via its banking operations in Lithuania. The low-cost envelopes tear easily and lack protective lining, allowing third parties to readily access classified data about bank customers’ assets.

According to one expert, Swedbank is estimated to save around 2 öre per envelope. A legal administrator, who has handled estates of deceased persons for many years, says she does not consider Swedbank’s duty of confidentiality to customers is being properly safeguarded with the use of the envelopes.

Swedbank says it has not received any complaints.

Foreign tourism boom

In June, the number of recorded nights spent by foreign tourists in Swedish tourist accommodation establishments increased by 6.2%, compared with the same month in 2014, according to statistics from the Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (Tillväxtverket). The total number of overnight stays was around 1.6 million, and was mainly at accommodation establishments in the major cities.

Visita (the organisation for the Swedish hospitality industry) forecasts that tourism figures will spike last summer’s record high figures.

The weak Swedish krona is definitely contributing to Sweden’s flourishing tourism industry, says Carl Hammer, currency expert at SEB. On the other hand, the weaker Russian rouble has meant a decline in the number of Russian tourists in Sweden during the first five months of 2015. The number of Russian tourists fell by 32% during the period, show figures from Statistics Sweden and Tillväxtverket.

Tough year ahead for ROT deduction

The government’s announcement that it will lower tax deductions for domestic service work and household repairs (ROT deduction) from 50% to 30% has brought the sector to a standstill.

According to estimates by the Swedish Construction Federation (BI), there is a risk that up to 8,300 jobs will disappear if the ROT deduction is lowered.

“As yet no decision has been pushed through the Riksdag so there is still an opportunity to back down from the proposal,” says Björn Wellhagen, enterprise policy director at BI.

Both the Economic Crime Authority (EBM) and National Financial Management Authority (ESV) have given thumbs down to the government’s proposal and warn of an increase in the shadow economy.

Free trade deal on wish list

Peter Dahlen, the head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Sweden, tells Dagens Industri (DI) that the main focus of Amcham is to grow as an organisation and develop Swedish-American business within Sweden.

“Companies that are interested in transatlantic trade are potential members,” says Dahlen, whose aim is for Amcham to increase its membership base from 210 to 250 by the end of the year.

Dahlen is a firm believer in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US, even if it will take time to complete the trade deal.

He considers some of the fears concerning the investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) to be legitimate, and says, “The process could definitely become more transparent and free of conflicts of interest.”

Amcham is also focused on helping Swedavia, which operates all airports in Sweden, to introduce preclearance at Arlanda for entry to the US.

Baylan on biomass

Energy Minister Ibrahim Baylan believes that biomass energy can replace nuclear energy in the long term.

“Thanks to bioenergy Sweden already has ample capacity to meet the 2020 emission targets. But the interesting thing is that the growth potential is still very big. Our forests’ net growth capacity is 25 million cubic metres per year. Sweden has 80% more wood pulp in its forests compared with 100 years ago,” says Baylan.

The challenge is now for the minister to persuade sceptical European colleagues and environmental organisations that biomass is a viable alternative.

Record-high profit

The largest provider of temporary accommodation for asylum seekers in Sweden invoiced the Swedish Migration Board for 330 million kronor for the first six months of this year. The sum was SKr 172 million for the same period last year.

Swedish entrepreneur and former politician Bert Karlsson’s company Jokarjo has invoiced the Swedish Migration Board for SKr 137 million so far this year for its services, to be compared with SKr 32 million for the same period last year.

“We’re best at what we do and our prices are the lowest, which is why we’re growing the fastest. Sales and profit will continue upwards,” says Bert Karlsson, who says Jokarjo and other providers could lower their prices considerably if the Migration Board were to extend their contracts from today’s three months to up to three years.

Karlsson tells DI his dream is to turn refugee reception centres into integration schools, and that he plans to open 20 new centres specifically aimed at unaccompanied child refugees.

Poor odds for Svenska Spel

The wholly state-owned company Svenska Spel, operating in the gaming market in Sweden, has provided the state coffers with an annual average dividend of SKr 5 billion over the past decade. However, competition is stiffening and CEO Lennart Käll warns that revenues will decline.

“We’re seeing the market grow more rapidly than we’re growing, which means we’re lagging behind. We don’t provide online casino gaming, which accounts for sales of SKr 2.4 billion in Sweden. Instead customers turn to unregulated online providers that don’t pay tax in Sweden,” says Käll.

Swedish start-up takes on US

The Swedish digital platform Tictail has announced a SKr 189 million round of funding from Swedish private equity company Creandum, US firm ThriveCapital, British Balderton Capital and German Acton Capital. The funding will be used to develop Tictail’s marketplace, which is similar to the US company Etsy and New York listed Shopify.

“We have digital shops in 140 countries. Our goal is to become the local digital platform in every country where we have a presence. It’s all about providing the product in the local language and via local distribution channels,” says Carl Waldecranz, Tictail CEO.

Optimism among CEOs

A closer look by Dagens Industri at the interim reports of Swedish top listed companies shows a majority of CEOs airing cautious optimism about the outlook for the European economy. They feel less preoccupied with how the Greek crisis may impact on economic growth in the region.

“The CEOs are surprisingly positive about growth in Europe,” says Mattias Eriksson, equity strategist at Nordea, and adds that future messages from CEOs should focus on how each company can grow organically.

Dividend spree nears end

Two years ago, state-owned utility group Vattenfall and mining company LKAB paid SKr 6.8 and SKr 5.5 billion respectively in dividends to the state. However, the decline in electricity and commodity prices over the last few years has meant that the dividend paid into the state coffers by LKAB for the 2014 financial year shrunk to SKr 139 million, and the forecast for the next few years is gloomy.

The National Financial Management Authority (ESV) forecast in its June report that Vattenfall will pay a dividend of SKr 2.6 billion, and that LKAB will pay SKr 1.6 billion for the 2015 financial year.

The Ministry of Enterprise provides an overall assessment of the dividend pay-out from all of the state-owned companies, rather than predicting dividend pay-outs for individual companies, and will do so in conjunction with the autumn budget proposal.

“Of course we took into account in the spring already that it’s a new situation for many companies in the state portfolio, not least for Vattenfall and LKAB,” says Anna Magnusson, head of division for corporate governance at the Ministry.