Date: Mon, November 18, 2019
Source : bloomberg.com
Author: Hanna Hoikkala and Niklas Magnusson — With assistance by Leo Laikola
Investors were left bewildered last Friday as the news of yet another major Nordic bank being implicated in the widening money laundering scandal in the Baltics.
Shares of SEB took a deep dive since the peak of the financial crisis after the bank said it has contacted by SVT, Sweden’s national public broadcaster, who is releasing a program about dirty money in which SEB will be mentioned. SEB’s market value dipped as much as 15% and had hit its bonds.
Similar to SwedBank AB, SEB runs expansive operations in the Baltic region. While Swedbank is under investigation in Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and the U.S based on the money-laundering allegations made by SVT linking Swedbank’s operations and Danske Bank A/S involving hundreds of billions of dollars in suspicious transactions stemming mainly in Russia, SEB has yet to be implicated in the scandal.
In its statement on Friday, SEB said it received many inquiries from reporters at SVT’s Uppdrag Granskning program. However, the bank said it had no further knowledge of the program’s content. “In order to be transparent, SEB chooses to disclose this information to the market,” it said.
Swedbank said it too has been contacted by SVT for a program that would air November 20.
Bloomberg Intelligence Insights:
“SEB has been dragged into the long-running scandal over Baltic dirty money, with Sveriges Television set to air allegations of violations against the bank. While it’s impossible at this stage to assess the accuracy of those claims, the experience of Danske Bank (share price down 60% since its 2018 peak) and Swedbank (down 35%) will spook investors. SEB has a sizable presence in Baltic markets, deriving 10% of revenue from the region.” -- Philip Richards, Bloomberg Intelligence banking analyst
“SEB is being pulled deeper into the Baltic money-laundering swamp. The share price fall, however, feels like an overreaction. The price drop should probably not be regarded as concern about the new information but rather about uncertainty regarding the magnitude of it.” -- Joakim Bornold, Savings Adviser at Soderberg & Partners in Stockholm in an emailed comment
Within its 3 weeks issuance into the market, SEB’s $900 million CoCo bond fell from about 1.5 cents to around 98 cents. Although it is too early to draw conclusions from the SVT news allegations, “there could be more volatility ahead for SEB’s bondholders.” Said Vaclav Vacikar, a credit analyst at Rabobank.
CoCos are the riskiest form of bank debt.
SEB statement as follows: “For a long time, SEB has worked hard to ensure that it has adequate routines and processes to prevent money laundering. However, just like any other bank, SEB cannot guarantee that it has not been used, nor that SEB will not be used for illicit activity”.
SEB Chief Executive Officer Johan Torgeby has said repeatedly that the bank found no indications that it has “systematically” been used for money laundering.
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