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PRIVATISATION

Sweden unveils major privatisation plans

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.

STOCKS

Stockholm stock market hits new all-time high

The Stockholm stock exchange closed at a record high on Wednesday, with the OMXS index climbing 1.4 percent to smash the previous record set in 2007.

Stockholm stock market hits new all-time high

The OMXS closed at 430.6, besting by more than three points the previous record of 427.2 set in July 2007.

"Finally, after more than five years, we've come up to the all-time high," Nordea stock strategist Martin Guri told the TT news agency.

The Stockholm stock market's advanced was in line with developments on other exchanges around the world, and can be attributed to a new World Bank forecast indicting advances in global economic growth. Strong retail sales statistics from the United States helped as well.

Guri rejected any notion that the Stockholm exchange's recent rise was any sort of bubble, but is simply a continuation of a strong 2013.

"We had the worst financial and economic crisis since the 1930s. Now we can say that we've left it behind and are moving on to the next chapter," he said.

"The market could rise somewhere between ten and 20 percent this year."

He added that there are many signs of economic improvements, and while economic growth may not be strong, risks have deteriorated, bolstering investor confidence. 

Guri cited central banks in the US, Japan, and the eurozone for stimulating stock market growth.

"They've promised financial markets they plan to keep interest rates low," he said.

Wednesday's OMXS rise was led by heavyweights such as retailer H&M and bank Nordea, which climbed 2.7 percent and three percent, respectively, as the Swedish fashion retailer reported better than expected sales results for December.

Other market winners on Wednesday included pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, telecom equipment maker Ericsson, and truck maker Scania, all of which rose by around two percent.

The Swedish krona weakened slightly against the dollar, which can now buy 6.48 kronor. The krona-euro exchange rate remain unchanged, at 8.80 kronor to the euro.

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