The scandal in premium pension company Allra has been one of the most written about this year, and CEO Alexander Ernstberger is at the centre, accused of committing a crime.
In an exclusive interview with Dagens Industri (DI) he claims that no mistake has been made, although he regrets not firing Ebba Lindsö and Thomas Bodström from the board.
At the start of 2017 the financial group Allra was about to enter the Stockholm stock market, instead Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) published an investigation leading to Allra being banned from the premium pension system and under investigation by the Swedish Economic Crime Authority (Ekobrottsmyndigheten). Alexander Ernstberger was held in custody for seven weeks.
The company is accused of milking their funds of hundreds of millions of kronor, intending to line the pockets of the owners at the costs of pension savers.
Ernstberger says his focus is now to “clear their names and get the truth out – that there has been no wrongdoing and no money has disappeared”.
The Riksbank has left its benchmark repo interest rate at a negative 0.5 per cent but expects to raise the rate in the middle of 2018.
However the Riksbank has decided to let its current bond purchase programme expire and only invest the proceeds from maturing bonds, from January 2018. The investments will be carried out regularly over the next year. Therefore the Riksbank’s holdings of government bonds will increase.
As Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson presented her forecast for Sweden on Tuesday, the main risk factors in the economy were the fall in house prices, a slowdown in China and political uncertainty in the US.
Magdalena Andersson calls the price fall a “correction”. “There are factors here that indicate that we ought to be able to move towards continued strong demand for housing in Sweden, which is most likely to be able to counteract the slowdown we are seeing just now on the housing market,” she said, but added that it is always hard to predict house prices and the property market is holding back growth in Sweden.
The economy will grow at a faster rate in coming years with a rise of 0.3 and 0.2 percentage points respectively for GDP growth of 2.8% in 2018 and 2.2% in 2019. The government is lowering growth for 2017 from 3.1% to 2.5%. However that is related to a revision of historical figures from Statistics Sweden. In absolute numbers, Sweden’s economy is as large as the government thought in the autumn.
Unemployment is falling more slowly and the government will achieve its new surplus target with a structural surplus of 0.33% over the entire forecast period.
Alexander Stubb, former Prime Minister of Finland and now deputy chair of the European Investment Bank (EIB) describes Brexit as one of the greatest tragedies of modern times. Being part of NATO and a member of the UN Security Council made Britain an important part of the EU, and for the Nordic countries the UK was an ally in issues such as free trade.
Alexander Stubb is visiting Stockholm as part of his new role at the EIB and to sign contracts with two Swedish companies that have been granted loans: Clavister is to loan SEK 20 million for cyber security development and Nexus is borrowing SEK 29 million to develop identity and security solutions digitally.
He talks about how digital development, artificial intelligence and robotisation will affect everything from democracy and politics to future lifestyles. One problem he sees is that there are few joint standards on the digital market and he would like to see a digital inner market in the EU.
H&M’s shares dived on Friday after the fashion giant presented historically poor sales figures.
Analysts had calculated on average that the group’s sales would increase by almost 5 per cent in local currency in the fourth quarter, according to SME Direkt. However sales fell by 2 per cent.
The group’s sales were weighed down by the H&M brand’s physical stores which continue to be negatively affected by challenges posed by falling customer traffic due to a shift to online sales. There was also an imbalance in parts of the H&M brand’s compilation of its collection, something that chairman Stefan Persson addressed in an interview at the end of November.
In Dagens Industri (DI) today, owner Henrik Didner, comments that the market has changed more than H&M has realised and a new management is required to turn things around.
The company’s share price plummeted 13 per cent on Friday.
Swedish EU Affairs and Trade Minister Ann Linde was unable to hide her disappointment after the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires ended in a fiasco on Wednesday as member countries failed to reach agreement on a single issue.
Linde had hoped that advances would be made on e-commerce, fisheries and farming, but so was not the case. Among other things, a bid for broad agreement on new global rules for e-commerce ground to a halt as dispute arose over a moratorium on levying duties. A group of 70 WTO member countries will now work towards new rules.
“It’s unfortunate. There was a risk that we would move backwards, but instead we are at a status quo, which is a relief,” she has told DN.
Linde also said there was irritation among EU ministers, with some questioning why so much time is spent preparing for a meeting that leads nowhere.
Talks on the future of the euro zone will be initiated at the EU summit, which begins today, Thursday. Stricter budget deficit rules are needed, as are rules to provide assistance to countries in crisis and a minister of economy and finance to oversee these reforms, argues European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in a DI debate article this morning.
Today’s discussions are the first of their kind to be conducted under favourable conditions and will gather leaders from within and outside the euro zone. This will pave the wave for concrete decisions to be made in 2018, writes Mr Juncker, expressing the hope that “we will take our collective responsibility to turn a new leaf” after the financial crisis and “not wait for the next storm”.
Former Supreme Commander Bengt Gustafsson, along with a number of senior officers, ambassadors and military experts, says that Sweden should join NATO in order to dispel doubt about military support. Bilateral cooperation agreements do not provide the same protection as membership of the organisation. There is no guarantee that NATO will give priority to a country that is trying to gain free passage, they warn.
Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, is issuing guarantees of SEK 535 million to encourage private investment in developing countries.
Two years ago world leaders promised to end global poverty by 2030 but this will require massive investment in infrastructure such as water, roads and telecommunications, and Sida.
Director General Carin Jämtin believes private capital is needed, if the goal is to be met.
Along with the International Finance Corporation, a sister organisation of the World Bank, Sida will issue guarantees to global insurance businesses Allianz and Prudential. The insurers will then loan the equivalent of SEK 8.6 billion to 20-30 sustainable infrastructure projects in developing countries.
All four centre-right alliance parties and the Sweden Democrats have criticised union and employer organisations’ plans for a new jobs model for new arrivals and the long-term unemployed, saying it will be expensive for taxpayers.
Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson does not agree; benefit payments for new arrivals and the long-term unemployed are expected to cost the government and local councils some SEK 17 billion in 2018, so by getting these two groups into work “society could profit in the longer-term,” she argues.
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