Sweden to implement EU rules capping board seats in July

STOCKHOLM Fri Jan 24, 2014 7:22am EST

STOCKHOLM Jan 24 (Reuters) - Sweden's government said it had decided reluctantly to implement EU rules restricting the number of board positions people in systemically important financial companies can hold from July this year, turning down the industry's request for a delay.

The decision is a disappointment for Sweden's financial institutions, which had lobbied hard for a transition period and where it is common practice for people to sit on multiple boards across a number of sectors.

The EU capital requirement directive - known as CRD IV - aims at limiting risks in the financial system and will cap the number of board positions a person can hold at systemically important institutions to four.

"This is not a proposal which we have driven," Swedish Financial Markets Minister Peter Norman told Reuters.

"We are hesitant, but now there is a large majority of countries in Europe which think that this is good. We do not belong to them, but in the EU it is give and take ... and this is what the banks have to stick to."

The rules are likely to affect Sweden's four largest banks - Nordea, Handelsbanken, SEB - and Swedbank and members of Sweden's wealthy Wallenberg family.

SEB Chairman Marcus Wallenberg is also chairman of Saab , Electrolux and LKAB, as well as director of a handful of other companies. SEB deputy chairman Jacob Wallenberg also chairs Investor, which is the bank's biggest owner, and is deputy chairman of both Scandinavian airline SAS and Ericsson, as well as a director of ABB.

"One can say that the information from the government comes very late," Investor's head of communications told news agency TT, adding that it would be holding meetings on the matter.

The Swedish Bankers' Association said it was disappointed by the news as it had asked for a one-year transition period. It expects to have a final proposal from the government at the end of February.

"We have to know as quickly as possible what the final rule is," Johan Hansing, head of the economics department at the Bankers' Association, told Reuters. "The election process for the banks is going on right now."

Nordea, the region's biggest bank, had no comment. It reports quarterly earnings next week along with Swedbank, while rivals Handelsbanken and SEB report the following week. (Reporting by Mia Shanley and Daniel Dickson, additional reporting by Johan Ahlander; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)