Sweden “close to deflation”

In its annual report US investment bank Morgan Stanley warns that Sweden is close to deflation. The alarm came when the CPI unexpectedly slid to 0.5 per cent in November, according to chief economist Stephen Roach.

Roach is surprised that the risk of deflation has arisen despite a strong economy and a buoyant property market. The strong crown is at the root of the problem, according to the investment bank, which warns that other European countries, such as Germany, could also face the risk of deflation.

Barnevik quits Astra

Percy Barnevik is to leave his post as chair of the Astra Zeneca board at the end of the year and will be replaced by Renault boss Louis Schweitzer. The news comes at the same time as a study has shown that Astra’s Iressa drug has failed to help cancer patients live longer and while Astra’s chief executive Tom McKillop remains confident over the 2004 profit forecast, it is possible there may be write-downs on Iressa and Exanta.

The group has now decided to review its entire research programme and Swedish research director Martin Nicklasson will be replaced by British John Patterson.

DVD market expanding

The Swedish DVD market has grown by 60 per cent in one year and the sector forecasts sales of around 14 million DVD discs for a total of 2 billion crowns.

Brummer’s ups and downs

Brummer & Partners’ Zenit, Sweden’s largest hedge fund, has fallen by 3.3 per cent in 2004 while the company’s Latitude hedge fund has shown a return of 47 per cent since the turn of the year.

Brummer’s funds have on average generated a return of 6 per cent, according to Klaus Jäntti, chief executive of the company.

Balkan funds generated best return

SvD reveals that stock funds investing in Eastern Europe have generated the best return this year with the Gustavia Balkan fund generating a 78 per cent return since the start of the year.

Competition Authority against SF acquisition

The Swedish Competition Authority hopes to stop the SF chain of cinemas from buying competitor Sandrews, since this would given SF a monopoly on the market.

TV4 on observation list

The Stockholm bourse has placed TV4 on its observation list since the broadcasting company’s four major shareholders now own more than 75 per cent of the stock.

If the ownership situation has not changed within six months, TV4 could be struck off the ‘A’ list.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Dagens Industri


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Swedish inquiry calls for state-run digital ID and low-risk bank accounts

A Swedish government inquiry into the payment system has called for the state to launch its own digital ID and a new type of basic, low-risk bank account to help the estimated 1m people with no, or limited, access to digital payments.

Swedish inquiry calls for state-run digital ID and low-risk bank accounts

“Too many people are stuck outside the digital system,” Anna Kinberg Batra, the former Moderate Party leader who led the inquiry said as she delivered the conclusions of her more than two-year inquiry on Friday. “Privately-run banks own central parts of the system and the government needs to get more involved.” 

In the report, it notes that Sweden is one of only four EU states, alongside Cyprus, Greece, and Romania, which lacks a state-issued digital ID. 

Currently, BankID, which is issued by the major banks, dominates the e-ID landscape in Sweden, and even the main alternative, Freja e-ID, is owned by a private company.

The report calls on the government to either task a government agency to develop and run its own digital ID system, or to put out a tender for one which would be run by a private provider, but which meets government guarantees and requirements. 

The new digital ID system, it said, it should make it possible for foreigners currently excluded from BankID, such as refugees, foreign students, and people working on short-term contracts, to identify themselves and use digital payment systems. 

“For a state-run e-identification system to be able to provide an effective tool for financial inclusion it is important that there are no unnecessary obstacles for asylum seekers, foreign students, and guest workers, among others, to obtain a state-run e-identification.”

The report also calls for action to prevent foreigners living in Sweden from being deprived of their bank accounts or prevented from getting them in the first place because of regulations put in place to prevent money laundering and terror financing. 

It suggests pressuring banks in Sweden to offer so-called “low-risk accounts” with limited functions (such as, for example, limits on international payments).

“More people must be given access to bank accounts, through for example more effective surveillance and through banks using the possibilities in legislation to offer accounts with more limited functions (low risk accounts),” the report reads. 

As well as access to digital payment services, the inquiry also looked at whether it was important for Sweden to continue to use physical cash and coins. 

It concluded that it was important to continue to keep cash as part of the payments system, as otherwise Sweden would be vulnerable in a severe crisis or military attack. 

The report also calls for government agencies and pharmacies and shops selling goods deemed essential to life, to be required under law to accept cash payments. 

Finally, the report concludes that there is no need at present for the Riksbank to issue a so-called “digital krona”, a state-backed digital coin similar to Bitcoin, but it encouraged the central bank to continue monitoring the situation. 

“The Riksbank should continue to consider the issue,” Kinberg Batra told TT. “We have a high confidence in our digital payments, a krona is worth a krona and we have a guarantee on bank deposits for if anything happens to the banks, and banks are also heavily supervised under a rigorous regulatory framework.”