Sweden is suspending plans to sell state stakes in Nordea (NDA) Bank AB, SBAB Bank AB and phone company TeliaSonera AB (TLSN) as Europe’s sovereign debt crisis causes stock markets to drop, Financial Markets Minister Peter Norman said.
“There are such worries in the financial markets, it’s not appropriate to do more right now” with the state holdings in the companies, Norman, a member of the Moderate Party, said today in an interview in Stockholm.
The four-party government coalition earmarked Nordea, TeliaSonera and SBAB for divestment after coming to power in 2006. Norman said last October that a block share sale of Nordea remained an option, while the government is more likely to dispose of its 13.5 percent stake gradually.
Sweden’s parliament approved a plan in 2010 to sell the state’s stake in SAS Group (SAS), the Nordic region’s biggest airline. Norman, who spoke today while attending a conference held by stock-market operator Nasdaq OMX (OMX) Group Inc., declined to comment about Sweden’s plans for the carrier. The country owns 21.4 percent of SAS. Norway and Denmark each hold 14.3 percent.
The OMX benchmark index of Sweden’s 30 biggest traded companies has declined 0.7 percent this year, following a 16 percent drop in 2011. The FTSE 100 Index in London has fallen 2 percent this year. Germany’s benchmark DAX, which is 14 percent lower than a year ago, has shifted between gains and losses today as demand fell at an auction of Spanish debt.
Sweden’s government sold a 6.3 percent stake in Nordea, the biggest bank in the Nordic countries, for 19 billion kronor ($2.69 billion) in February 2011, and said it will continue reducing the holding through the electoral term ending 2014 to fund a reduction in state debt.
Other government disposals in the past five years include Vin & Sprit AB, the maker of Absolut vodka, and property company Vasakronan AB as well as part of stock-market operator OMX AB and some of its holding in TeliaSonera.
Sweden’s banks and financial systems remain healthy as they’re protected from the fiscal woes of southern European countries, Norman said.
“What we see right now gives no reason for worry,” Norman said. “We have a very very low financial exposure to the countries that have problems, and very little trade with them.”
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