Chinese Swoop into Sweden

Back some 60 to 50 years ago there was a mass immigration of workers from Finland to southern Swden where Volvo and Saab car factories were located together with a few other big companies and their sub-contractors. It was hard to find good work with decent wages then and hard-working men and women found new homes in Gothenburg and other nearby cities. The numbers were huge well over 200 000 people made the move and were welcomed by Swedes. Finns shared the same cultural history and values and many of them could speak basic Swedish which they had learnt at school. The trip was also relatively short since the two countries are neighbours.

Now many years later it is estimated that here are some 500 000 to 650 000 first, second and third generation Finns living as Swedes in every part of Sweden. Your correspondent could acknowledge around 15% of work colleagues were of Finnish origin in his last job in a Stockholm based company of over 200 people.

Swedes have always welcomed immigrants up to a point – that can be described as “pragmatic generosity”. So long as they integrated, learnt Swedish and worked hard then there was no problem.

The Sweden Democrats, a rightwing nationalist political party grew quickly in the 1990’s as the flow of refugees and immigrants from the remnants of Yugoslavia, from the  Middle East and Afghanistan flooded the cities with their different culture. People were frightened that their white protestant culture was being threatened.

Now there is a new perceived threat in Gothenburg – that of the Chinese invasion. Volvo was purchased by the Zhejiang Geely Holding, a major car manufacturer in China, and failed Saab was purchased by Evergrande, one of the biggest real estate developers in China. This latter company is now called NEVS.

Politicians and business folk in Sweden are concerned about the growing influence of Chinese businesses in their city. It appears that the Chinese are taking a stronger hold on strategic corporate assets in northern Europe with the objective of securing, (or stealing as some state), proprietary scientific and commercial secrets from jointly owned companies. 

Geely has established its own beachhead in Sweden with Volvo and now they own Saxo Bank in Denmark and have also aggressively bought into Daimler. Saxo Bank looks very Danish with Geely holding some 51%, the Saxo Bank founder € CEO, Kim Fournais, owns 27.53% the Finnish financial group Sampo owns some 20%. 

The connections do not end there – Sampo is connected to the largest Nordic bank, Nordea, and the Vice Chairman of Saxo Bank is Henrik Normann who is President and Chief Executive Officer of Nordic Investment Bank, the Nordic government-owned development bank.

NEVS generates lots of nice videos and colourful “sing song” marketing materials about electric cars but has yet to actually produce one. Everglade, its main shareholder, is in deep trouble with real estate investments, and their involvement in a failed electric car project in the USA called Faraday Future. This project was meant to be a major competitor to Tesla but has now folded. 

This Chinese property group is paying as much as 12% for its latest bond of $2 billion for debt repayments. In fact, excluding financials, Evergrande had the largest total interest expense of any listed company on the planet, according to Bloomberg.

There have also been several other significant investments in Swedish companies – Nordic Cinema Group, Spotify, Radisson Hospitality, and Nordic Paper. It is estimated that some 60 000 jobs are dependent on Chinese owned companies in Sweden.

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