Reinfeldt welcomes foreign bidders for state firms

Sweden will welcome bids from foreign investors in its upcoming sale of state holdings in businesses and groups, the country's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said in an interview published in the Financial Times on Wednesday.

He said, however, that all bids would be weighed on a case-by-case basis to ensure that no Swedish jobs were lost unnecessarily in the massive sale.

“I am not ruling anyone out,” he told the newspaper.

“We are stronger on free trade than some other countries that sound as if they are building up national protection again.”

According to the FT, Sweden holds stakes in 57 companies or groups with total employment of 200,000 people, valued at an estimated 500 billion kronor. The government hopes to raise 150 billion kronor in the first three years of its disposal programme.

Among the companies the government has a stake in are Nordea, the Nordic region’s biggest bank, telecoms company TeliaSonera, stock market operator OMX, and airline SAS.

Reinfeldt made clear, however, that he would ensure that no Swedish jobs were unnecessarily lost as part of the programme, saying: “We have a long-term responsibility.”

“We would like to see a sale that is open to a job creation process, rather than one that see fewer jobs. We want the best price, but some of the companies are linked to Swedish interests.”

“There needs to be individual reasoning.”

The money raised from the sale will be put towards funding Reinfeldt’s programme of cutting taxes and creating jobs, but his plans have met with opposition from the country’s trade unions.

The main trade unions have called for demonstrations across the country on December 14 to protest against another of his projects, aimed at raising Swedes’ premiums for unemployment insurance while decreasing payouts to the jobless.

While official figures put the jobless rate at 4.6 percent in October, experts say that a fifth of Swedes of working age live on state subsidies, either claiming unemployment, sick leave or early retirement payments or are on government retraining schemes.