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Vattenfall inquiry churns up heated feelings

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09:17 CEST+02:00
The official inquiry into state-owned Vattenfall's disastrous purchase of Nuon has started heating up, with a former enterprise ministry aide reacting strongly to statements made by the energy giant's former chair.

Lars Westerberg, former chairman of Vattenfall, on Tuesday told the parliamentary committee on constitutional affairs (Konstitutionsutskottet - KU) that civil servant Elsa Widding had "been right without knowing she was right".

Widding has since protested against his statement, clarifying that her analysis of the proposed affair warned that Vattenfall would not be able to turn a profit with Nuon in its stable.

"It was actually really horrible," she told the Dagens Industri newspaper about Westerberg's comments.

"When I said that buying Nuon destroyed many billions in value it was based on the consolidation of the purchase and a normal calculation of profit," she explained. "You shouldn't make purchases if you can't see that it adds some kind of value."

She said that Westerberg had been given her analysis after the purchase, however. Eight copies were made and handed out to members of the board. The analysis stated that Vattenfall would not meet the demand for 11-percent profit.

"I don't know if the board read it," Widding told DI. 

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Vattenfall bought the Dutch company Nuon in 2009. The deal led to significant losses for Swedish taxpayers when Vattenfall wrote down its assets. Last year, after the asset write-down, Sveriges Television (SVT) reported that Vattenfall had been warned that such a deal may not add to its long-term value. Management consultants McKinsey had concluded that "a bigger buy would entail risk and would not create value per se".

The McKinsey report further stated that the deal meant Vattenfall may have to ask its owner, the Swedish state, for additional funds. Then enterprise minister Maud Olofsson has remained steadfastly taciturn about the deal but told SVT she tried to persuade Vattenfall 'to calm down' its expansion bid.  

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