Sweden's Investor Swings to Net Loss


Investor, the investment group controlled by Sweden's Wallenberg family, said Thursday it swung to a loss in the third quarter and cited the recent market turbulence and credit crisis stemming from the US subprime lending morass.

The Stockholm-based company recorded a net loss of 7.82 billion kronor ($1.21 billion) in the quarter, compared with a profit of 8.92 billion kronor in the year-ago period.

Investor's chief executive Borje Ekholm said the "recent liquidity crisis in the global credit market has made financing more difficult, including for financial institutions and large buyouts."

Net asset value -- the value of the company's assets minus debts -- came to 174.6 billion kronor ($27 billion) on Sept. 30. That was up sharply from 159.3 billion kronor at the end of last year.

Even though Ekholm said the market turmoil may still take some time to be fully resolved -- risking a slowdown in the private equity market -- he noted that Investor's balance sheet was strong.

"This will open up new opportunities for making investments," he said.

David Hallden, an analyst at Cheuvreux Nordic, said this indicates Investor wants to take advantage of the situation.

Investor's core holdings include engineering companies ABB and Atlas Copco, drug maker AstraZeneca, appliance maker Electrolux, truck maker Scania, wireless network maker LM Ericsson, Husqvarna, defense company Saab, Scania, and bank SEB.

It also holds a more than 10% stake in the Nordic stock exchange operator OMX, which is currently targeted by a joint takeover deal from Nasdaq Stock Market and Borse Dubai. Ekholm said the bid, which it accepted at a raised price in late September, had increased "the probability of a sale at this very attractive valuation level."

Ekholm said Investor has "taken an active role in the discussions on OMX's future and potential combinations," adding his company is "pleased to see that the value of the company has more than doubled during the year."

Investor also increased its ownership in Husqvarna and banking group SEB in the quarter. The bank has strong potential as a standalone company, Investor said, but still noted that the banking industry "is in a dynamic phase and we will continue to monitor the bank's position in the best interest of our shareholders."

As for Scania, where Investor holds 11% of the capital and 20% of the votes, Ekholm said that Investor "will attempt to find a long-term industrial solution for Scania while maximizing the value for our shareholders."

German rival MAN failed in its takeover bid for the Sodertalje-based company earlier this year.

"In other words," Hallden said, "the discussions surrounding its (Scania's) future do not exclude MAN."

Hallden added that the comments about SEB indicate that Investor is also not excluding consolidation of the banking group.

Shares in Investor rose 0.3% to 177.50 ($27.44) in Stockholm.