Profits soar for Sweden’s state-owned companies

Sweden’s state owned companies are set to earn record-breaking profits this year, although not every company has had a stellar 2010.

According to a data compiled by the TT news agency, Sweden’s 27 fully or partially state-owned companies are on track to break the combined profit record set in 2006.

Nevertheless, certain companies continue to struggle in the wake of the financial crisis.

Scandinavian airline SAS, for example, continues to lose money even after being forced to ask the state and other shareholders for major capital injections twice last year.

But as a group, Sweden’s state-owned companies have perhaps never been better.

After a modest increase at the start of the year, profits shot up during the second quarter, according to TT’s compilation.

The companies’ combined profits before tax increased by 76 percent to nearly 20 billion kronor ($2.75 billion) in the second quarter of 2010.

The majority of the profit rise stems from the Norrland region of northern Sweden, home of the LKAB mining company, which saw profits increase by 5.7 billion kronor in the second quarter.

Even energy company Vattenfall, another state-owned cash cow with strong ties to Norrland, performed exceptionally well in the second quarter, with profits up by 3.4 billion.

The companies’ strong profits will likely result in higher dividends paid to the Swedish state – or to higher sale prices, should any state-owned companies or ownership stakes be sold.

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‘We agree to disagree’: Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

By lunchtime on Friday, talks between the Scandinavian airline SAS and unions representing striking pilots were still stuck on "difficult issues".

'We agree to disagree': Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

“We agree that we disagree,” Roger Klokset, from the Norwegian pilots’ union, said at lunchtime outside the headquarters of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise in Stockholm, where talks are taking place. “We are still working to find a solution, and so long as there is still some point in continuing negotiations, we will do that.” 

Mats Ruland, a mediator for the Norwegian government, said that there were “still several difficult issues which need to be solved”. 

At 1pm on Friday, the two sides took a short break from the talks for lunch, after starting at 9am. On Thursday, they negotiated for 15 hours, breaking off at 1am on Friday morning. 

READ ALSO: What’s the latest on the SAS plane strike?

Marianne Hernæs, SAS’s negotiator on Friday told journalists she was tired after sitting at the negotiating table long into the night. 

“We need to find a model where we can meet in the middle and which can ensure that we pull in the income that we are dependent on,” she said. 

Klokset said that there was “a good atmosphere” in the talks, and that the unions were sticking together to represent their members.

“I think we’ve been extremely flexible so far. It’s ‘out of this world’,’ said Henrik Thyregod, with the Danish pilots’ union. 

“This could have been solved back in December if SAS had not made unreasonable demands on the pilots,” Klokset added. 

The strike, which is now in its 12th day, has cost SAS up to 130m kronor a day, with 2,550 flights cancelled by Thursday, affecting 270,000 passengers.