Government puts off sale of SBAB

The Swedish government announced on Friday it was postponing the sale of state-owned mortgage lender SBAB because of the financial crisis.

Sweden’s centre-right coalition government had planned to sell the mortgage lender as part of the country’s biggest ever privatization programme aimed at raising about 200 billion kronor ($24.7 billion).

But with the deepening of the global financial crisis in recent months, a sale was not on the cards for now, the Swedish finance ministry said.

“SBAB is a company that the government intends to sell. In light of the financial turmoil, a sale is not on the agenda at the moment,” it said in a statement.

The government had already sold Absolut Vodka maker Vin & Sprit, real estate firm Vasakronan, holdings in bourse operator OMX and a stake in telecom operator TeliaSonera before the financial crisis hit with full force about four months ago.

The ministry also said the government would put forward a bill under which the mortgage lender could expand its operations into the banking field.

“I welcome that more players can join and contribute to improvements in the financial sphere while at the same time safeguarding the value of SBAB ahead of a future sale,” Financial Markets Minister Mats Odell said in the statement.

Earlier on Friday, SBAB posted an operating profit of 585 million kronor for full-year 2008, up from 258 million a year earlier, and said it had had “healthy access” to funding at every phase of the financial crisis last year.

The mortgage lender said the value of its liquidity portfolio, which the bank holds to manage liquidity refinancing risks, stood at 31.5 billion kronor at the end of last year, up from 31.0 billion at the end of 2007.