Olofsson denies knowing of Vattenfall payouts

Minister for Energy and Centre party leader Maud Olofsson knew of the golden parachutes to Vattenfall bosses, several sources have revealed to Swedish media.

Olofsson denies knowing of Vattenfall payouts
Sources claim Maud Olofsson knew of massive Vattenfall payouts

On Friday Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri reported that

Citing multiple anonymous sources, Swedish business daily Dagens Industri (DI) reported on Friday that Olofsson demanded that previous Vattenfall chairman Lars Westerberg get rid of CEO Lars G Josefsson, which was settled with Josefsson leaving voluntarily with a massive severance package.

When the golden handshake of 12 million kronor ($1.9 million) became common knowledge, the government sacked Westerberg, who “backed up” the government’s line, saying he had failed to inform them.

On Monday, Social Democrat Lars Johansson reported Olofsson to the Committee on the Constitution (Konstitutionsutskottet) as he claims to have a source that can verify Olofsson’s knowledge of the deal.

Maud Olofsson is aware of the claims that she knew about the deals in advance, but, denies having had any knowledge of the payouts.

“Lars Westerberg can attest to that, he hasn’t informed me of the German agreements or Lars G Josefsson’s agreement,” Olofsson told the TT news agency.

“This wasn’t decided by me ahead of time, it’s the board’s job to follow the guidelines we set up.”

She also urged the sources making claims that she knew about the deal to reveal themselves.

“They should come forward, those that make these claims,” she said.

Olofsson claimed her conversations with Lars Westerberg regarding the shift in CEOs were limited to Josefsson retaining a transitional role until his retirement.

“It is patently absurd that I would have been prepared to give Josefsson an extra 12 million. He received a juicy pay cheque every month anyway, and had done for some time,” she said to TT.

Social Democrat economic policy spokesperson Tommy Waidelich argued that prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt had ultimate responsibility for dealing with the matter.

“This is also a question of the faith of the entire Swedish people that a specific minister should be sacked after a scandal like this,” he told TT.

He urged the prime minister and the government to get to the bottom of the matter and provide an account of the truth.

But Fredrik Reinfeldt did not want to comment on the parachutes.

“Maud Olofsson have answered some of the questions. Peter Norman, in charge of state ownership, has answered others. I have seen a statement from the Committee on the Constitution which states that some of the questions will be dealt with there,”he said to TT.

Separately, Olofsson said she plans to continue as leader of the Centre Party, despite a growing tide of criticism from within the party about her leadership.

As long as she continues to enjoy the post and maintains the confidence of the party’s members, she has no plans of stepping down, she told TT.

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Swedish energy firm racks up giant losses

UPDATED: Swedish energy giant Vattenfall recorded losses amounting to nearly 29 billion kronor ($3.4 billion) on Tuesday as the company continued its battle against increasingly tough market conditions.

Swedish energy firm racks up giant losses
Vattenfall chief executive Magnus Hall on Tuesday. Photo: Fredrik Persson/TT

Hit by asset write-down charges worth 36 billion kronor, Sweden's Vattenfall reported a net loss of 28.812 billion kronor in the second quarter of the year, a huge drop from 2.3 billion kronor in the same period in 2014.

The state-owned energy firm, a major provider of electricity in northern Europe, has been struggling to improve profits for several years, suffering from weak demand and plunging electricity prices.

It attributed 17 billion kronor of the total asset write-downs to the same fall in profits which led to a shock announcement earlier this year that it planned to close Ringhals 1 and 2 in south-western Sweden.

It said at the time that the two reactors were too costly to keep in production until 2025 as previously planned.

“This is of course very negative but unfortunately reflects the reality we're living in,” said its chief executive Magnus Hall in a statement on Tuesday morning.

It also wrote down an additional 15 billion kronor on its lignite, or brown coal, assets in Germany.

Earlier this year Vattenfall announced that 1,000 workers were being let go as part of a series of bids to curb losses, including speeding up the sale of the German plants.

It reported a total turnover of 36.1 billion kronor in the second quarter of 2015 on Tuesday, down from 36.6 billion in the same period last year.

Hall said that the work to tighten the belt was continuing “to identify further reductions in costs”.

Since the Vattenfall Group bought energy giant Nuon in 2009, a deal which has been hotly debated in Sweden, the firm's assets have been written down by over 52 billion kronor. 

Many energy providers in Europe have made huge asset write-downs in the last two years because of weak demand for electricity against a background of sluggish economic activity.

They have also been caught out by the US shale energy boom, which has pushed down the price of coal for power generation, undermining the profitability of new gas-powered plants and some investment programmes.

Vattenfall employs more than 30,000 and has operations in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain.