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.


‘We agree to disagree’: Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

By lunchtime on Friday, talks between the Scandinavian airline SAS and unions representing striking pilots were still stuck on "difficult issues".

'We agree to disagree': Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

“We agree that we disagree,” Roger Klokset, from the Norwegian pilots’ union, said at lunchtime outside the headquarters of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise in Stockholm, where talks are taking place. “We are still working to find a solution, and so long as there is still some point in continuing negotiations, we will do that.” 

Mats Ruland, a mediator for the Norwegian government, said that there were “still several difficult issues which need to be solved”. 

At 1pm on Friday, the two sides took a short break from the talks for lunch, after starting at 9am. On Thursday, they negotiated for 15 hours, breaking off at 1am on Friday morning. 

READ ALSO: What’s the latest on the SAS plane strike?

Marianne Hernæs, SAS’s negotiator on Friday told journalists she was tired after sitting at the negotiating table long into the night. 

“We need to find a model where we can meet in the middle and which can ensure that we pull in the income that we are dependent on,” she said. 

Klokset said that there was “a good atmosphere” in the talks, and that the unions were sticking together to represent their members.

“I think we’ve been extremely flexible so far. It’s ‘out of this world’,’ said Henrik Thyregod, with the Danish pilots’ union. 

“This could have been solved back in December if SAS had not made unreasonable demands on the pilots,” Klokset added. 

The strike, which is now in its 12th day, has cost SAS up to 130m kronor a day, with 2,550 flights cancelled by Thursday, affecting 270,000 passengers.