Big banks’ mortgage profits rising

The total net interest for Sweden’s big four banks amounted to around SEK 30 billion for the second quarter – an increase of over one billion kronor since last year. The profits come mainly from mortgages.

“This is a completely unreasonable figure,” says Håkan Larsson, housing economist at the Swedish Homeowners Association. Håkan Larsson says that the development is due to the low repo rate, which has meant there is a huge difference between the interest banks themselves pay and what they offer mortgage customers.

During the same period mortgages have grown in importance for banks. For Swedbank and Handelsbanken, the mortgage share of the group rocketed from 25% in 2010 to 49% and 42% respectively in 2015.

Håkan Larsson points out that the four big banks have very similar interest rates for mortgage customers, calling it a price-fixing cartel. He believes politicians ought to act and the state SBAB bank ought to lead the way by bringing down interest rates.

Swedish money financing criticised project

After Donald Trump waived the requirement for the company behind the controversial oil pipeline in North Dakota to consult the indigenous population again about the environmental impact on their water, the tribe is being removed from protest camps at Standing Rock.

SvD reports several Swedish banks and fund companies, including Skandia, Swedbank and Länsförsäkringar, have invested in the company. Länsförsäkringar is trying to get the company to reroute the pipeline while Skandia’s sustainability analyst Helena Larson says Skandia is waiting for a UN special rapporteur to determine whether the rights of the indigenous population have been breached.

Meanwhile Nordea has recently stopped its fund managers from investing in the company and SEB’s fund company has sold its holdings although still has holdings via its index funds.

Pressure on government

Closing Sweden’s borders will not solve the major challenges that lie ahead, warn the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO) and the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Sv. Näringsliv). Both organisations consider that the government must act now and introduce uncomfortable reforms in the wake of huge influx of refugees to Sweden.
“As many people as live in a city the size of Linköping have come so far this year. Look at how much housing, infrastructure and welfare there is there, with its own university hospital, and we’re seeing how much we’ll need to invest now,” says Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson, chair of LO.
“In order to give these new arrivals a chance we must get used to bigger differences (in salaries, ed.) than we have today,” says Carola Lemne, head of Sv. Näringsliv, who wants the government to use the respite it has created in refugee reception to push through major structural reforms.
The situation is so serious that the government must raise the ceiling on public spending, contends Robert Bergqvist, SEB chief economist, warning that to introduce savings at this time will have extremely negative consequences.

Falkengren on VW scandal

Annika Falkengren, who is a member of the supervisory board of Volkswagen (VW), commented for the first time yesterday on the scandal over VW rigged emissions tests.
She described her shock when she first heard the news, but emphasised that her position on the supervisory board would not affect SEB’s operations in Germany, and added, “So far it has not affected my position as CEO of SEB.”