Government sells shares in TeliaSonera

Sweden's centre-right government will sell eight percent of its stake in semi-public Swedish-Finnish telecom operator TeliaSonera, the biggest in northern Europe, it said on Monday.

“With this sale we will reduce our stake in TeliaSonera in a responsible way, and at the same time we will remain the biggest shareholder and thereby have full freedom to make strategic decisions,” Financial Markets Minister Mats Odell said in a statement.

The Swedish state currently holds 45.3 percent of TeliaSonera and the Finnish state 13.7 percent.

TeliaSonera’s market capitalisation is 246 billion kronor ($2.97 billion), according to Swedish news agency TT.

The eight percent up for sale, which will be sold only to institutional investors, is worth 20 billion kronor, it said.

The government, which came to power in October, has announced plans to sell state holdings in six companies. The other five are banking group Nordea, OMX stock exchange, wine and spirits manufacturer Vin och Sprit, real estate company Vasakronan and mortgage lender SBAB.


‘Rotten’ business claims at Nordic TeliaSonera

Swedish-Finnish telecom operator TeliaSonera has been accused of “rotten” business dealings in Azerbaijan, following a separate bribery scandal in Uzbekistan.

'Rotten’ business claims at Nordic TeliaSonera
A TeliaSonera conference in Stockholm last year. Photo: TT

Folksam, which is one of the largest insurance companies in Sweden, has accused the firm of “systematic cheating”, after it emerged that TeliaSonera’s subsidiary in Azerbaijan had ties with the family of Ilham Aliyev, the Arab nation’s leader.

It has been claimed that the dictator’s daughters were shareholders of TeliaSonera's subsidiary Azertel, via a connected company based in Panama.

“It is distressing that in a large Swedish company…people thought that cheating would pay off in the long run,” Carina Lundberg Markow, one of Folksam’s managers told the TT news agency on Wednesday.

She criticized TeliaSonera for failing to act “in an honest and open way” when entering new markets.

“Instead, they choose to pay for success,” she added.

TeliaSonera is one of the biggest telecom operators in the Nordic and Baltic countries and also operates in several emerging markets in Eurasia including Russia and Turkey, as well as Spain. The Swedish state owns 37.3 percent of the company.

Swedish prosecutor Gunnar Stetler is already investigating claims of unethical business practices in Uzbekistan and told TT he had also been given new information concerning potential bribery in Azerbaijan.

The company has voluntarily cooperated with the investigation, handing over what Stetler describes as “extensive information” about “the terms and conditions in Eurasian countries”.

Stetler said he was unable to discuss how he had responded to the information. But calls are growing for TeliaSonera to release a public report about its business dealings.

“Now it is extremely important to create transparency,” said Lundberg Markow.

“This shows the importance of having a set of values when doing business in complex markets or countries,” she added.

TeliaSonera and Norwegian rival Telenor recently merged their operations in Denmark, while the telecoms giant last year purchased rival Tele2's Norwegian division for 5.1 kronor.