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It’s a symptom of the times that we live in that despite the fact that Sweden has just endured one of the tightest and most consequential elections in its history, domestic politics is struggling to make it onto the front page. In fairness, the election did feature prominently on Dagens Nyheter for a week after the poll. But it was then replaced by the funeral of Queen Elisabeth II, Russia’s mobilisation and nuclear threats, gangland executions, sabotage against the Nord Stream pipelines, the electricity crisis, the biggest jump in Swedish interest rates for 30 years and most recently the sabotage of Putin’s bridge to Crimea. These diversions must be a welcome respite for Ulf Kristersson and other leading politicians of the right who are trying to patch together an unlikely coalition, and happy to have the media’s eyes looking elsewhere.
Welcome to Mundus Brief. We try to keep the Mundus Brief brief and entertaining; a counterbalance to our more serious news and analysis. We hope you find it an interesting read! /The Mundus Team
We return to Swedish politics shortly, but let’s begin with the war, which moved much closer to Sweden this month, with the detection of “gas leaks” under the Baltic Sea. The term “leaks” conveys an impression of a few bubbles, but the reality turned out to be anything but, as it was discovered that sabotage had been committed with multiple detonations causing vast amounts of methane gas to erupt from 80 metres below the surface. Eventually the entire contents of the lines emptied into the sea, and from there into the atmosphere. The leaks have stopped, but the pipes are unsealed, and now presumably filled with water. Mundus argues that this act of sabotage will have dramatic consequences for Europe’s future energy usage. Without large volumes of piped Russian gas, Europe lacks energy on demand. And at this point in time it seems implausible that the Nord Stream pipes will be repaired and therefore Europe will look for different sources of dispatchable energy over the short, medium and longer terms. Take your pick of whether it will be hydrogen or nuclear. It’s hard to believe that it will be coal, unless Europe is to completely abandon the climate agenda.
The Nord Stream detonations provide further evidence, if that is needed, that the Nordics and Baltics have gone from quiet backwaters to globally important centres of geopolitics.
A VERY FULL INBOX
In last month’s Mundus Brief we made the observation that whatever side of politics got their hands on the reins of government, managing events was going to keep them busy. Further gangland executions took place in September, with Dagens Nyheter reporting that out of 48 deaths, 27 lacked even a person in custody, and only 4 had been resolved. If there is to be any stop to the crime spiral in Sweden then the next government needs to make major changes.
The economy will also be a challenge, with consumer confidence in free fall and house prices expected to drop 15-20%. And on September 20, the Riksbank decided to raise interest rates by a full percentage point, as it tried to stamp on inflation, which has hit 9%. The stockmarket was unimpressed (make that depressed) hitting an annual low in September, and is now down 25% over the year. Nonetheless, the economy was still growing (in July) and Swedish labour demand was the highest in Europe. For the moment the economic picture remains murky, with some hopes for a soft landing.
But for the tech sector there is little doubt that its immediate future is troubled. Tech has been both an engine room for the Swedish economy and part of its successful branding, with Stockholm dubbing itself the “Unicorn Factory”. Now, with the good times ending, Klarna, one of Sweden’s pin-up poster children, is looking increasingly stressed, having reported losses of SEK 6.2 billion in 1H22 alone. Gone is growth at all costs – the company now enters an era where “it needs to restructure the departments in order to reflect the more focused nature of today’s Klarna”, meaning that its workforce will be cut from the 10,000 that was planned for the end of 2022 to 6,000. Meanwhile, its valuation has fallen 85%. With other Swedish growth companies like Kry and Voi also seeing their valuations drop, our Monthly Policy Review looks at what this means for the sector.
AND NOW TO SWEDISH POLITICS
Last month, Mundus Brief reported that the Swedish election race was too tight to call, but with the left-of-centre coalition having its nose slightly ahead. And that was the way it appeared all the way through to election night. Indeed, the exit poll done by SVT predicted that Magdalena Andersson would be reelected as PM. But then as the actual results started to come through the election took a different complexion, and as counting closed on the night the right-of-centre block had its nose ahead, with a very shaky majority of 1. Eventually, the final tally gave the right-wing a 3-seat majority. Andersson conceded and handed in her resignation, and the Speaker of the Riksdag, newly re-elected in the same form of Andreas Norlén, began his by now routine task of trying to stitch together a government that had the confidence of the Riksdag. A week after the poll, the mission was given first to Ulf Kristersson of the Moderates, and after Kristersson showed evidence that he would be successful, he had his mandate extended until 12 October. As it stands today, it is expected that Kristersson will become Prime Minister, perhaps as early as October 17. Meanwhile, Andersson remains as the caretaker PM and offers her services should Kristersson fail.
The main headlines you are probably familiar with. The real and unequivocal winner in the Swedish elections was the Sweden Democrats (SD), who saw their vote increase by 3%, making them the second largest party in the Riksdag. Also, the Social Democrats (S) vote went up 2%, and in some ways that made them also a winner – certainly so, in terms of their long-term dominance, as their vote has been declining for two decades. The Moderates (M) were in the unusual situation of being declared winner while dropping to being the third biggest party. In practice, all of the minor parties were losers in terms of their primary vote, although the Greens (MP) and Liberals (L) counted themselves ‘lucky losers’, exceeding the 4% threshold and thereby retaining their place in the Riksdag. Probably the clearest loser was the Centre Party (C), whose voters fell 25%. C leader, Annie Lööf, fell on her sword, but went out with her head held high.
But behind the headline of change at the top, what did the voters cast their ballots for and how should one interpret the result. This was the subject for much of our analysis in the latest edition of the Monthly Policy Review. The detailed analysis reveals deeper currents at play in Sweden. 34% of women voted for S, and just 16% backed SD. For men, the respective numbers were 26% and 25%, closely followed by 21% for M. But SD did not grow only by plucking voters from other parties: 22% of younger (18-21) voters, who would have voted for the first time, backed SD, second only to M, which won 26% of their vote. This stands out as a contradiction to the assumption that the young tend to vote left. Older voters (65+), meanwhile, backed S, giving the party 38% of their votes and only 20% to SD.
Even more interesting was what happened at a regional level. Until this election, the SD was considered a creature of Skåne, with 11 of the 12 districts in which it governed coming from the south. Meanwhile C was considered a party of the farmers and regional businesses. But C saw its vote plummet in rural areas. Dagens Nyheter reported when it surveyed rural areas, for “many local Centre voters, Lööf was a red scumbag, an urban renegade who rustled with ‘communists’ in the corridors of Stockholm.” Relatively speaking, it was SD that won at Cs expense in the countryside, as SD broke out of its southern fortress, claiming large territories in the north.
Meanwhile, in another quirk, S increased its vote in the larger cities, areas which have been traditionally associated with the centre-right. The best example of this was in Stockholm, where Anna König Jerlmyr, the ‘mayor of Stockholm’ lost her position and S increased its vote at the regional (län) level too. A rigorous analysis may take time, but superficially it appears that Sweden’s ‘big city liberals’ voted to the left, while the countryside moved to the right. By positioning itself as harder right M was able to claim power, but it has done so at the expense of alienating some of its core inner city supporters, hence the fall in its vote.
ULF KRISTERSSON THE COMEBACK KID
As we write, it is assumed that Ulf Kristersson will succeed in becoming Prime Minister, a high-point as he reversed his fortunes after losing out to Fredrik Reinfeldt two decades ago, and for a while being part of a “lost generation” in M. He has demonstrated remarkable tenacity to achieve his objective. But what sort of leader will he be for Sweden? Previously seen as a “liberal conservative” he will lead a government with overtones of hard right. And with a bare 3-seat majority he may find the mantle of power somewhat of a poisoned chalice and will need to draw deep on his reserves to survive a 4-year term. Our final article in this Monthly Policy Review is a biographical review of Kristersson’s career to date, which gives insights into the future for him and for Sweden.
MUNDUS GREEN IMPACT
Despite the war, despite geopolitical tensions and even in the event of a global recession, there is a greater threat to humanity – climate change. To fight such an insidious threat we must all take personal ownership and lead where we can. Mundus is deeply committed to this battle, which we are fighting on multiple fronts – through the Nordic Green Indices, the Bright Green Summit and via our AI offering.
NORDIC CLIMATE ACTION AT ALL TIME HIGH
Last week we published our Nordic Green Indices for September. September activity levels were nothing short of explosive, with the total Nordic Green Index reaching 138 – 50% higher than activity in August and up 40% over the same month in 2021. The jump was driven by big increases in general corporate climate action, which is now more than double its level in 2021. An increase in Policy announcements was also recorded, as governments struggled to keep the lid on wild energy markets.
For more, download the Indices here 🌱
BRIGHT GREEN SUMMIT
On November 22, Mundus is hosting the Bright Green Summit, together with the American Chamber of Commerce and in collaboration with the British, Dutch and French Chambers of Commerce as well as the Australian Business Council of Sweden.
The event, timed just 4 days after COP27 finishes in Egypt, will be your first opportunity to learn what was achieved. Join us for a day of insights from Ambassadors, expert presentations and to learn what businesses at the cutting edge are looking to achieve. ➢ Register here 🌱
BEHIND THE SCENES AT MUNDUS
by Yuqin Peng, Intern
Opportunity in the midst of crisis
It has been over two months since I started to work as an intern at Mundus International in August. Even though I worked most of the time online at Lund where I graduated, It is a great pleasure that I was offered the opportunity to come to the Mundus office in Stockholm and work with Jessica Nilsson Williams, CEO, Sean Williams, Commercial Director, and Charlotte Perlaky, Head of Operations at Mundus International.
Recently, we have been working closely with the American Chamber of Commerce in Sweden to prepare the second annual Bright Green Summit (BGS). In the meeting of our preparation for the summit last week with two of the collaborating chambers – the British-Swedish Chamber of Commerce andChambre de Commerce France Suède -we discussed the aim, focus, and partnerships of the BGS for over two hours. The summit is designed to look at what this means for us here in the Nordics and aimed for businesspeople seeking information and networks, diplomats looking to identify trade opportunities and individuals hoping that something good will come out of this mess. Therefore we are in the essential process of finding partnerships and sponsorships to achieve our goal. Until now, we are very pleased to have Skanska, Nasdaq, CocaCola, Doconomy and The Absolut Company as our corporate partners.
Apart from the summit, I also worked closely with Sean for our daily Nordic Green Newspublication. We need to analyse, pitch, interpret and write green-related news announcements for Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark every day. This daily mission makes me understand the green transition process in these Nordic countries and companies deeply. In addition, even though I have been living in Sweden during my Master’s program for two years, I was still a bit ignorant about the whole Swedish society, politics, and business environment. There was a huge language barrier for the international students who could not understand the local news to get to know what happened in the real world, especially for the most crucial climate actions and green transition.
As I titled, opportunity in the midst of crisis is our theme of BGS. It is also my opportunity to seize the midst of my own career path. I am delighted to be working in a green-related area at Mundus, which is the way of the future. Last, I am also very much looking forward to attending our Bright Green Summit as part of the host and I believe we will achieve something great. Click here to register