Swedish paper maker SCA to slash 2,200 jobs in Europe

Swedish paper maker SCA planned to shutter 11 factories and cut 2,200 European jobs, the company announced on Tuesday.

“The packaging market continues to be very weak,” said SCA CEO Jan Johansson in a statement.

“Profitability in SCA’s packaging operations weakened further during the first quarter as a result of low volumes and price pressure.”

SCA, which produces packaging, hygiene and paper products, will also bring forward the closure of a paper mill in New Hythe in Britain to mid-2009, the statement said.

The measures, which would make 14 percent of the company’s European employees redundant, would generate annual savings of 1.07 billion kronor ($129 million), SCA said.

In 2008, the company employed 52,000 people in 60 countries worldwide, 16,000 based at its European packaging operations.

SCA also released its financial data for the first quarter of 2009, beating analyst expectations.

The group announced a 1.11 billion kronor profit in the first quarter of 2009, down 22 percent down from 1.53 billion kronor for the same period last year.

A survey of analysts by Dow Jones Newswires had predicted a 759 million kronor profit for the first quarter.

SCA’s sales rose by 3.0 percent to 28.3 billion kronor from 27.5 billion the same period the previous year.

The company pointed to low demand for its packaging products as the reason behind the dip in profits.

“Profitability in SCA’s packaging operations weakened further during the first quarter as a result of low volumes and price pressure,” SCA said in its first-quarter report.

On the Stockholm exchange, the prices of shares in SCA rose by 9.0 percent on the news to 78.78 kronor at 1138 GMT in a market down by 3.86 percent.

Paper makers across Europe have also announced job cuts in recent months as they aim to deal with dwindling demand and overcapacity.

Finland’s Stora Enso, Europe’s leading paper and cardboard maker, said late last month that it would cut 2,000 jobs globally in the next two years to boost profitability.

Its Finnish rival UPM-Kymmene said in March it would temporarily lay off all 900 employees working in its Finnish timber unit in the second quarter due to weak demand.

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Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

A reader got in touch to ask how long he had to work in Sweden before he was eligible for a pension. Here are Sweden's pension rules, and how you can get your pension when the time comes.

Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

The Swedish pension is part of the country’s social insurance system, and it can seem like a confusing beast at times. The good news is that if you’re living and working here, you’ll almost certainly be earning towards a pension, and you’ll be able to get that money even if you move elsewhere before retirement.

You will start earning your Swedish general pension, or allmän pension, once you’ve earned over 20,431 kronor in a single year, and – for almost all kinds of pension in Sweden – there is no time limit on how long you must have lived in Sweden before you are eligible.

The exception is the minimum guarantee pension, or garantipension, which you can receive whether you’ve worked or not. To be eligible at all for this, you need to have lived in Sweden for a period of at least three years before you are 65 years old. 

“There’s a limit, but it’s a money limit,” Johan Andersson, press secretary at the Swedish Pension Agency told The Local about the general pension. “When you reach the point that you start paying tax, you start paying into your pension.”

“But you have to apply for your pension, make sure you get in touch with us when you want to start receiving it,” he said.

Here’s our in-depth guide on how you can maximise your Swedish pension, even if you’re only planning on staying in Sweden short-term.

Those who spend only a few years working in Sweden will earn a much smaller pension than people who work here for their whole lives, but they are still entitled to something – people who have worked in Sweden will keep their income pension, premium pension, supplementary pension and occupational pension that they have earned in Sweden, even if they move to another country. The pension is paid no matter where in the world you live, but must be applied for – it is not automatically paid out at retirement age.

If you retire in the EU/EEA, or another country with which Sweden has a pension agreement, you just need to apply to the pension authority in your country of residence in order to start drawing your Swedish pension. If you live in a different country, you should contact the Swedish Pensions Agency for advice on accessing your pension, which is done by filling out a form (look for the form called Ansök om allmän pension – om du är bosatt utanför Sverige).

The agency recommends beginning the application process at least three months before you plan to take the pension, and ideally six months beforehand if you live abroad. It’s possible to have the pension paid into either a Swedish bank account or an account outside Sweden.

A guarantee pension – for those who live on a low income or no income while in Sweden – can be paid to those living in Sweden, an EU/EEA country, Switzerland or, in some cases, Canada. This is the only Swedish pension which is affected by how long you’ve lived in Sweden – you can only receive it if you’ve lived in the country for at least three years before the age of 65.

“The guarantee pension is residence based,” Andersson said. “But it’s lower if you haven’t lived in Sweden for at least 40 years. You are eligible for it after living in Sweden for only three years, but it won’t be that much.”