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Borg bashes Swedish banks' booming profits

Borg bashes Swedish banks' booming profits

Published: 02 Mar 2011 15:49 GMT+01:00
Updated: 02 Mar 2011 15:49 GMT+01:00

Sweden’s Finance Minister Anders Borg wants to put the squeeze on Swedish banks, where profits have swelled, shareholder dividends ballooned, and interest margins on mortgages doubled.

The four major Swedish banks, Nordea, Handelsbanken, SEB and Swedbank, earned a combined 68 billion kronor ($10.8 billion) last year, an increase of 32 billion kronor ($5 billion) from the year before, the Expressen newspaper reported on Wednesday.

At the same time, the Riksbank reported the difference between the repo and mortgage rates have doubled, prompting Borg to take issue with how banks pad their profits.

"Banks always drive up their margins and are very keen to make big profits. It is a bit of a sheltered operation in terms of profitability. It requires no great expertise when it comes to earning profits when you pass along the bill to mortgage holders,” Borg told the newspaper.

Borg argued for stronger laws to prevent banks from continually raising dividends, stating that profits should not be distributed to the owners but rather used to "enhance the stability of the Swedish economy".

The finance minister, who disagrees with opposition political parties that want to retain the state's ownership of SBAB, promised to teach the state-owned mortgage lender a lesson, calling it a "problematic" company for the state to own.

SBAB management abolished top-up mortgages with mandatory amortisation payments, continues to ignore the government’s mortgage ceiling, and gives extra discounts on larger loans, Borg charged.

He also believes that the nation’s capital reserves need more padding, stating that Sweden’s economy looks healthy in the short term but may not be able to survive another economic crisis or housing bubble.

“We live in a brutal world, and Sweden will not be in a position to expose itself to such high vulnerability as a year ago,” he told Expressen.

The 43-year-old finance minister has previously noted that the risks for the Swedish economy were considerably higher during the crisis in the Baltics than known.

Swedish housing prices are another concern where there is reason to worry, according to Borg.

"There is a risk here. There is no doubt. However, it is not just about housing prices, but also about total household debt," he said.

The Local/kh (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:48 March 3, 2011 by Mib
If the bank is stated owned, then put your own management in that follow the state's decree. But, one of the reasons why some people don't want the state to sell SBAB, is to drive competition in the market place. ie. if SBAB lowered its margins for mortgageg lending, then the others would surely follow as they want the business.

It always amazes me how difficult it seems for Governments to use common sense and their powers etc to drive a path that takes them to where they want say the banks to be. Make it easier for new banks to enter the market........use the states power to drive competitiveness via SBAB. It is quite clear that Banks around the world do not care what Governments threaten as they will ignore them or find a way around the system. So, PLAY them at their own game and drive the market via a state owned bank!!!!!!!
19:39 March 6, 2011 by roaringchicken92
*Borg argued for stronger laws to prevent banks from continually raising dividends, stating that profits should not be distributed to the owners but rather used to "enhance the stability of the Swedish economy".*

In other words, the profits should not be returned to the people, they should be used to stabilize the economy, which would then enable the profits to be returned to the people.

Makes sense if you realize that this is someone demanding that he get his first, and then the bourgeoisie can have what's left over. The 24-hour news cycle makes it harder for the finance minister to hide his true motivations.
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