Agency denies inflating China deal job figures

Invest Sweden, the state agency tasked with attracting foreign investment to Sweden, has denied reports that it inflated figures detailing the number of jobs created by deals it brokered with Chinese companies.

As Sweden’s official investment promotion agency reporting to the foreign ministry, Invest Sweden provides a range of services to to foreign companies interested in doing business in Sweden, including the establishment of partnerships that are supposed to help create jobs in Sweden.

The agency, which receives some 60 million kronor ($9.4 million) from the government each year, claims it has created some 600 new jobs in Sweden thanks to a number of strategic alliances, including 66 deals with companies from China since 2008.

However, according to a report in Svenska Dagbladet (SvD), the number of jobs attributable to the agency’s efforts is only about 10 percent of that figure.

In one example Invest Sweden claimed it had fixed 400 new positions at Volvo Cars as a result of helping broker the sale, via its sale of the Swedish automaker to Chinese firm Geely.

General Director Per-Erik Sandlund highlighted the new positions in the Invest Sweden annual report.

However, according to Volvo spokesperson Per-Åke Fröberg, not a single new job was created as a result of the Volvo-Geely tie-up.

“We are not aware of this” he told SvD.

“The fact that Volvo got new owners in 2010 did not create any new jobs in itself. We don’t really know what Invest Sweden mean when they talk about 400 new jobs.”

Invest Sweden spokesperson Loth Hammar told the newspaper the figures came from a “careful estimate” carried out be the agency.

It is not the only case where Invest Sweden has seemed to artificially boost its influence.

In 2009, Beijing Autos concluded a deal with Saab Automobile, creating 100 new jobs, according to the agency.

However, according to Saab spokesperson Gunilla Gustavs, the deal only led to a few “temporary” positions and “not a single full time job”.

Invest Sweden, however, took issue with how their figures were reported by SvD and denied claims it had inflated the number of jobs created by the investments it helped broker.

“We are disappointed with SvD because we have worked hard to get them numerous reports and statistics. They have taken just a few of what amounts to many investments, so we do not know how they have come to these conclusions,” Invest Sweden spokesperson Loth Hammar told The Local.

He explained that Invest Sweden doesn’t release its own figures, but that the come from investors themselves.

Hammar stressed that SvD had been selective in how it had interpreted the information from Invest Sweden.

“But we are most disappointed that many of our most successful projects, have simply been ignored by these reports,” he said, citing a deal which he said created 500 jobs at Chinese telecoms company Huawei.

“It is disappointing when we have worked hard to provide the newspaper with everything they asked for,” said Hammar.

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Sweden’s Volvo regains strength after pandemic puts brakes on earnings

Swedish truck maker Volvo Group was hit by a sharp drop in earnings due to the coronavirus pandemic, but business rebounded at the end of the year.

Sweden's Volvo regains strength after pandemic puts brakes on earnings
Volvo Group CEO Martin Lundstedt. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

In 2020, the group saw “dramatic fluctuations in demand” due to the Covid-19 pandemic, chief executive Martin Lundstedt said in a statement.

For 2021, Volvo raised its sales forecasts in its trucks division – its core business – in Europe, North America and Brazil.

However, it said it also expected “production disturbances and increased costs” due to a “strained” supply chain, noting a global shortage of semiconductors across industries.

The truck making sector is particularly sensitive to the global economic situation and is usually hard hit during crises.

In March, as the pandemic took hold around the world, Volvo suspended operations at most of its sites in 18 countries and halted production at Renault Trucks, which it owns, in Belgium and France.

Operations gradually resumed mid-year, but not enough to compensate for the drop in earnings.

With annual sales down 22 percent to 338 billion kronor (33.4 billion euros, $40 billion), the group posted a 46 percent plunge in net profit to 19.3 billion kronor (1.9 billion euros).

Operating margin fell from 11.5 to 8.1 percent.

However, the group did manage to cut costs by 20 percent.

“We have significantly improved our volume and cost flexibility, which were crucial factors behind our earnings resilience in 2020,” the group said.

Volvo's business regained strength in the second half of the year.

“Customer usage of trucks and machines increased when the Covid-19 restrictions were eased during the summer and this development continued during both the third and fourth quarters,” it said.

“Both the transport activity and the construction business are back at levels on par with the prior year in most markets.”

For the fourth quarter alone, the company reported a 38-percent rise in net profit from a year earlier.