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Certain deficiencies in the state's sale of Nordea

The sale of the state's Nordea shares was largely handled in a commercial manner, as per the requirements determined by the Riksdag. However, the Swedish National Audit Office has identified deficiencies in the planning, implementation and reporting processes.

Three persons walking outside a Nordea office.

photo: JONAS EKSTRÖMER/TT

On three separate occasions in 2011 and 2013, the Swedish state sold its holdings of shares in Nordea Bank AB. The sell-off was implemented pursuant to a parliamentary decision, and was to be conducted in a commercial manner that maximised revenues. In total, the state received 60 billion SEK for its Nordea shares.

The audit of the Swedish National Audit Office indicates that in essence, the sales were planned and conducted in a commercial manner, and in accordance with the requirements of both the Riksdag and the Budget Act. For example, the Government Offices of Sweden was careful to initiate sales when demand for the shares was expected to be high.

However, certain deficiencies have been identified. These include the following:

  • The documentation surrounding the sale of the shares is deficient in a number of areas, which makes it difficult to track the decisions and considerations involved in the process.
  • The choice of the method of sale is not adequately justified.
  • In large share sales, it is often necessary to offer a discount relative to the market price. In the case of the Nordea sell-off, this discount totalled approximately 2.9 billion SEK. Despite extensive information about the factors that influence the size of the discount, there was no established target for the size of the discount at the time of the sale.
  • An account of the discount, which is the largest cost associated with the sale, was not provided to the Riksdag.
  • The primary financial adviser was a transaction bank and may have had its own interests in the deal. Despite this, and despite the fact that the state is rarely involved in large-scale share sales, no completely independent advisers were engaged for ongoing support.
  • The Government Offices of Sweden did not follow up on or assessed the sale in writing, and this impairs the ability to transfer knowledge gained in the course of this process.

Our assessment is that as a whole, the deficiencies that emerge in the report, such as the lack of a clear target for the discount, worsened the conditions for really good sales performance, says Peter Jörgensen, the project manager for the audit.

The deficiencies related to planning, implementation and reporting make it difficult to draw lessons for any future sales of the remaining state-owned listed companies, notes Auditor General Helena Lindberg.

Recommendations

Prior to any future sale of the remaining state-owned joint stock companies – TeliaSonera AB and SAS AB – the Swedish National Audit Office recommends that the Government develop its reporting to the Riksdag on how sales have been prepared and implemented.

The Swedish National Audit Office offers the Government Offices of Sweden the following recommendations:

  • enlist the assistance of independent experts for supplementary assessment of the principal adviser's dossier.
  • Set measurable targets for the sales, for example, discount relative to the share price.
  • Document the planning and implementation of any future sales of companies, so that positions and their motives can be tracked.

Press contact: Olle Castelius, phone: +46 8-5171 40 04.

Presskontakt: , telefon: 08-5171 42 06.

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Updated: 14 January 2019

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