Sweden’s Investor cuts losses

Swedish holding company Investor reported on Wednesday that it had cut its net losses to 3.02 billion kronor ($368 million) for the first quarter.

In the corresponding period of 2008 the group, which is controlled by the influential Wallenberg family, reported a loss of 8.93 billion kronor amid heavy market turbulence.

For the January to March period, Investor saw its net asset value drop by 24.7 percent to 109.7 billion kronor from 146 billion a year earlier.

“The general economy will be in disarray for most of 2009,” Investor’s chief executive Boerje Ekholm said in a statement.

Investor holds stakes in more than 130 companies worldwide.

Among its main holdings are Swiss-Swedish engineering group ABB, Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical group Astra Zeneca, Swedish bank SEB, white goods maker Electrolux, industrial equipment manufacturer Atlas Copco, and the world leader in telecoms networks, Ericsson.

Investor, which is among the first of a slew of Swedish companies to present their first quarter earnings reports in the coming weeks, is considered a good indication of the Swedish business climate.

Ekholm said some economic indicators, such as unemployment, were expected to worsen.

“But in several areas it feels like the pace of economic contraction is slowing,” he said.

“This could be a first step towards stabilisation,” he added.

Investor said it saw the current economic crisis as an opportunity to make long-term investments.

“We see the current environment as providing unusually attractive opportunities and we are convinced that 2009 and 2010 will be great vintages for investments when measured over a 10-year horizon,” it said.

The first quarter was marked by “successful” new share issues in bank SEB and outdoor power product maker Husqvarna.

“We believe SEB has a capital base that can sustain the bank through a difficult economic environment in its core markets including the Baltics,” it said.

Credit ratings agency Moody’s last week downgraded SEB’s ratings due to its heavy exposure to the economic crisis in the Baltics, where the bank has invested heavily.

Investor also noted that it had acquired a 23-percent stake in Swedish pharmaceuticals group Biovitrum for 595 million kronor.

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Swedish banking giants report mixed fortunes

Swedish bank Nordea on Thursday posted falling profits in the second quarter while competitor Handelsbanken announced growing figures for the same period.

Swedish banking giants report mixed fortunes
Handelsbanken CEO Pär Boman. File photo: TT

Nordea's net profit fell by 11 percent to €686 million ($928 million), compared to €771 million a year earlier.

"Interest rates continue to come down and the general level of economic activity as well as volatility is low," Nordea chief executive Christian Clausen said in a statement.

"We have seen continued strong activity in our savings area and in the corporate advisory business."

Revenue was almost stable at €1.368 billion, compared to €1.391 billion for the same period last year.

"Low loan growth and interest rates also put pressure on our net interest income," Clausen said.

The bank said that its cost-cutting plan was "progressing as planned" and that it expects to see the results by the end of 2014 and onwards.

Nordea said it has saved €300 million since the launch of the cost-reduction measures at the beginning 2013.

The second quarter looked better for Handelsbanken, which posted profits increasing by 9.0 percent compared to a year earlier to 4.034 billion kronor ($590 million).

Revenue reached 6.704 billion kronor, slightly above the 6.653 billion kronor the bank posted in the same period of 2013.

The loan loss ratio was 0.07 percent, the same as last year.

Handelsbanken is Sweden's largest bank in terms of deposits.

Between April and June, its liquidity reserves stayed above 800 billion kronor, as the bank continued its expansion in the British market.

"The bank has decided to establish a fifth regional bank in the UK, with its head office in Leeds," Handelsbanken said in a statement, adding that this would start in the first quarter of 2015.