Borg bashes Swedish banks’ booming profits

Sweden’s Finance Minister Anders Borg wants to put the squeeze on Swedish banks, where profits have swelled, shareholder dividends ballooned, and interest margins on mortgages doubled.

Borg bashes Swedish banks' booming profits

The four major Swedish banks, Nordea, Handelsbanken, SEB and Swedbank, earned a combined 68 billion kronor ($10.8 billion) last year, an increase of 32 billion kronor ($5 billion) from the year before, the Expressen newspaper reported on Wednesday.

At the same time, the Riksbank reported the difference between the repo and mortgage rates have doubled, prompting Borg to take issue with how banks pad their profits.

“Banks always drive up their margins and are very keen to make big profits. It is a bit of a sheltered operation in terms of profitability. It requires no great expertise when it comes to earning profits when you pass along the bill to mortgage holders,” Borg told the newspaper.

Borg argued for stronger laws to prevent banks from continually raising dividends, stating that profits should not be distributed to the owners but rather used to “enhance the stability of the Swedish economy”.

The finance minister, who disagrees with opposition political parties that want to retain the state’s ownership of SBAB, promised to teach the state-owned mortgage lender a lesson, calling it a “problematic” company for the state to own.

SBAB management abolished top-up mortgages with mandatory amortisation payments, continues to ignore the government’s mortgage ceiling, and gives extra discounts on larger loans, Borg charged.

He also believes that the nation’s capital reserves need more padding, stating that Sweden’s economy looks healthy in the short term but may not be able to survive another economic crisis or housing bubble.

“We live in a brutal world, and Sweden will not be in a position to expose itself to such high vulnerability as a year ago,” he told Expressen.

The 43-year-old finance minister has previously noted that the risks for the Swedish economy were considerably higher during the crisis in the Baltics than known.

Swedish housing prices are another concern where there is reason to worry, according to Borg.

“There is a risk here. There is no doubt. However, it is not just about housing prices, but also about total household debt,” he said.

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Recipe: How to make this very Swedish summer cocktail

This Blackberry and elderflower cocktail from Swedish food writer John Duxbury is a perfect compliment to the summer weather, as is the alcoholic version.

Recipe: How to make this very Swedish summer cocktail
A Swedish blackberry and elderflower cocktail. Photo: Matthew Mead/TT

A lovely cocktail based on two ingredients which are popular in Sweden, although St Germain liqueur is produced in France. The non-alcoholic version is a refreshing drink on a warm late summer's afternoon when blackberries are at their best.


Makes: 1

Preparation: 2 Minutes


– If you haven't got a muddler, use a fork to mash the blackberries and sugar together

– If the blackberries are large, halve them and remove the core

– The berry bits float in the non-alcoholic version but sink in the alcoholic version. So you may prefer to serve the alcoholic version without a straw as it can get clogged up with bits.

– For a non-alcoholic version simply replace gin and St Germain with elderflower syrup.

Ingredients for the alcoholic version

2-6 blackberries, depending on size

½ tbsp. caster (superfine) sugar

10 ml (1/3 oz) fresh lemon juice, approximately half a small lemon

25 ml (3/4 oz) Bombay Sapphire gin

15 ml (1/2 oz) St Germain liqueur

Ice cubes

Soda water


1. Put the blackberries in an old fashioned glass (whisky tumbler/on the rocks glass), add sugar and muddle until all the sugar is dissolved

2. Add lemon juice, gin and St Germain.

3. Top up with ice cubes and soda water. Stir thoroughly.

4. Garnish with berries or a slice of lime, as desired

Recipe courtesy of John Duxbury, founder and editor of Swedish Food