Reinfeldt: privatisations ‘should preserve Swedish jobs’

Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has said the government will consider industrial logic and employment issues as well as price when mulling bids from foreign and domestic buyers interested in snapping up Sweden's soon to be privatised state interests.

“We will look into where we can get the best price. We will also look into other factors,” said Reinfeldt in an interview with AFX News.

Reinfeldt’s incoming centre right government has said it intends to sell the state’s holdings 19.9 percent of Nordea, it’s 6.7 percent stake in OMX, 45.3 percent in TeliaSonera, and 100 percent holdings in SBAB (a provider of residential mortgages), Vin & Sprit (a drinks producer) and Vasakronan (a property developer).

Denmark’s Danske Bank has already said it will bid for SBAB, Sampo among others is rumoured to be interested in Nordea, and foreign drink companies are queuing up to bid for Vin & Sprit and its popular Absolute Vodka brand.

Lufthansa is also rumoured to be interested in SAS, although the airline group is not on the initial Swedish privatisation list.

The government originally said in conjunction with the privatisation launch that it was happy to see Swedish companies pass into foreign hands.

However Reinfeldt appeared to back away from this position last month when he said after the failed bid by Germany’s MAN AG for Scania that he preferred to see the Swedish truck maker to remain in Swedish hands.

Reinfeldt told AFX his comments about Scania were: “A heart feeling for a company with Swedish roots”. He said although foreign takeovers can sometimes offer industrial logic and a better company, that “of course we worry as everyone else does that we will keep the high profile work, keep research and development in our country”.

Referring specifically to the soon to be privatised companies Reinfeldt, he hinted that he would not accept any bid that involved job losses.

“Of course we will seek the best price, but we will also look into the industrial logic in each of these individual cases,” said Reinfeldt. “As a government we have said we are interested everywhere we look about job creation, and we do not foresee job losses from what we are doing”.

However amid some concern in Sweden over the privatisation process, Reinfeldt reiterated to AFX that the process is in the country’s best interests.

“We are happy to say that by selling part of our very dominating state owned sector we think we will create new value for the Swedish electorate. We will be able to take down the state debt, to create better productivity, and a better functioning market place,” said Reinfeldt to AFX.