UPDATE 1-Swedish Finmin slams bank dividends, threatens tougher rules

Thu Feb 6, 2014 10:27am EST

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(Updates with quotes, background)

STOCKHOLM Feb 6 (Reuters) - Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg warned the country's banks that they faced further tightening of capital rules this spring after they raised dividend payments for 2013 despite calls from authorities to build up more capital.

"I think that they have sent a clear signal to us," Borg told reporters on Thursday. "They are asking us to tighten regulations and make their implementation harder," he said.

The finance minister said the government would discuss the issue with the central bank and the financial watchdog over the coming months.

"It seems natural that we can reach a number of conclusions at the planned Stability Council meeting in May so that we can get a significant strengthening of the regulatory framework into place this spring," Borg said.

The four major Swedish banks paid their shareholders 66 percent of profits on average in 2013 - a stark contrast to other parts of Europe. Britain's Lloyds scrapped its 2013 dividend while Switzerland's UBS is paying the equivalent to a 30 percent ratio.

"They need stricter rules. That is in practice what they are telling us", Borg said.

The finance minister said the government was prepared to use "all the instruments available," including countercyclical buffers, systemic risk buffers, risk weights and other instruments.

Swedish lenders have built up some of the biggest capital buffers in Europe and easily meet existing regulatory capital requirements in Sweden, even if these are among the toughest in Europe.

Sweden has a one of Europe's largest banking sector's relative to the size of the economy and Swedish households are also among the most heavily indebted.

A number of steps have already been taken to reduce the risks in the financial sector. The FSA has imposed a 85 percent loan-to-value ratio for new mortgages and has raised risk weights for mortgages, forcing banks to set aside more capital. (Reporting by Johan Sennero and Johan Ahlander; Editing by Alistair Scrutton)

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