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Sweden unveils major privatisation plans

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16:07 CET+01:00
Sweden's government on Friday presented a bill to parliament to sell state holdings in six companies, including the owner of the Absolut Vodka brand.

The Swedish state currently owns 45.3 percent of telecoms operator TeliaSonera, 19.9 percent of banking group Nordea and 6.8 percent of the OMX stock exchange.

The three other companies are the wine and spirits manufacturer and owner

of the Absolut brand, Vin & Sprit , real estate company Vasakronan and the mortgage lender SBAB, which are all 100 percent owned by the state.

The sales would generate 150 billion kronor (21.24 billion dollars) for the Swedish state over three years from 2007 to 2009, the government said in December.

The government did not say when it would sell the stakes, nor whether it would sell all or just part of its holdings.

"The overarching goal of the government's policy is to create the conditions for more jobs and expanding companies," Financial Markets Minister Mats Odell said in a statement.

"One way of achieving this objective is a clearer division of roles between the private and public sector," Odell added.

The centre-right government, which came to power after ousting the Social Democrats in general elections in September 2006, had announced the most extensive privatisation programme since the 1990s as part of its election platform.

The Swedish state has majority or minority stakes in 57 companies which together employ 200,000 people.

The government also plans eventually to sell state holdings in other listed companies, such as the Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) airline, as well as unlisted groups such as the electricity company Vattenfall.

In December the government also announced plans to deregulate the country's 35-year-old pharmacy monopoly by January 2009.

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