Moderates promise to sell state firms

The Moderate Party has now made it clear that it plans to try and sell off more state companies if it wins the 2018 election. It has already singled out Telia, SAS and SBAB as objects for sale. Lars Hjälmered, party spokesperson for enterprise, says, “We do not consider the state to have a role to play in these companies.”

He is also critical of how Mikael Damberg, minister for enterprise and innovation, is dealing with the issue: “It is a very worrying situation that is being handled precariously. If you compare Mikael Damberg’s talk during the election campaign with how he has then managed the companies, there is a huge discrepancy.”

In particular he is critical of the extra dividends the state has extracted; SKr 6.5 billion from Akademiska Hus, the academic property company, and SKr 1.7 billion from SJ, the rail operator. “Of course that has an effect on the railways and the potential to build student accommodation. And they did that because of the desperation they have as a result of increasing costs for immigration and sick absences,” he says.

SJ loses concession

A decision to grant Hong Kong-based MTR a concession to operate Stockholm’s Pendeltåg suburban rail services as of December 2016 has come as a blow to rail operator SJ. The state-owned company has operated the network via its subsidiary Stockholmståg over the past decade, but has now lost the 10-year contract, which could be worth up to SKr 30 billion, if Stockholm County Council exercises an option for a four-year extension. SJ’s annual sales will fall from SKr 9 to SKr 7 billion as a result.

Ulf Adelsohn, former chairman of SJ, is furious over the news: “You could ask why it is that a company from Hong Kong can operate train services in Sweden when we are not allowed to set foot there. If this continues, we in Sweden will soon be without our own train company and become totally dependent on foreign companies,” he tells business daily SvD.

Crister Fritzon, the current CEO of SJ, is somewhat more optimistic, envisaging a new market for SJ in Norway and Denmark, where there are plans to open up competition.