Fri, May 17, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Swedish bank Handelsbanken closes Baltic operations

UNSATISFACTORY:Handelsbanken said the move had nothing to do with the recent scandals alleging money laundering at two Scandinavian banks’ Baltic operations


Swedish bank Svenska Handelsbanken AB yesterday said it was closing down its Baltic operations due to unsatisfactory performance, a move that follows revelations of money laundering in the region tied to two other Scandinavian banks.

“We have come to the conclusion that profitability is too low, while costs are too high. Despite efficiency-enhancing measures in the past few years, the operations in the three Baltic states have not shown satisfactory profits,” Handelsbanken International head Richard Johnson said.

He went on to say that circumstances had also changed drastically since the bank established its presence in the region a decade earlier and that local offices were no longer necessary.

“Rapid technological advances, which have resulted in new players on the market, and new opportunities mean that we can now help many of our customers directly from the home markets,” Johnson said.

The bank would therefore start to wind down its business in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania next year.

Johnson added that the bank’s decision had nothing to do with the recent scandals surrounding allegations of extensive money laundering at two other Scandinavian banks tied to Baltic operations.

Denmark’s largest bank Danske Bank A/S is the target of criminal probes in several countries over 200 billion euros (US$226 billion) in transfers that passed through its Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015, involving about 15,000 foreign clients, many Russian.

Swedish competitor Swedbank AB has also been embroiled in a scandal since February, when an investigative news show on public broadcaster SVT claimed to have seen documents showing that at least 40 billion kronor (US$4.3 billion) of suspicious transactions had been channelled to Baltic countries from Swedbank accounts.

Many of the transactions took place between 2007 and 2015, and some of the money might have first transited Danske Bank.

Handelsbanken has largely remained clear of the money-

laundering scandals and its operations in the Baltic states have only represented a fraction of some of its Nordic competitors.

For instance, according to the Estonian Banking Association, Handelsbanken’s market share in Estonia in 2017 was only 1 percent, compared with Swedbank’s 40 percent.

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