* Sweden sells 260 mln ordinary shares for 75 crowns each
* Size of sale equal to 6.4 percent of outstanding shares
* Debt office says bond auction volumes unchanged after sale
(Adds government comments)
By Mia Shanley and Johan Ahlander
STOCKHOLM, June 19 Sweden has sold nearly half
its remaining stake in Nordea, the region's biggest
bank, raising $3.0 billion which will be used to pay down debt
as the centre-right government heads into an election next year.
Sweden sold 260 million Nordea shares, raised from an
original goal set on Tuesday of 230 million, citing strong
investor demand and taking its holding down to 7.0 percent from
The stake went at 75 crowns per share, a 4.8 percent
discount to Tuesday's close, with Nordic investors snapping up
25 percent of the shares and the rest going overseas.
Financial Markets Minister Peter Norman said the government
would stick to plans to sell the rest of its Nordea stake, a
legacy of a 1990s banking crisis, without specifying when it
could do so.
"Our role should be clear. We should be on the banks' backs,
we should be tough regulators," he said at a news conference on
The coalition government had sped up privatisation during
its first term, when it had a clear majority in parliament, but
had to back off when the 2009 financial crisis pushed down asset
Sweden will use proceeds from the sale to pay down national
debt, already one of the lowest in Europe at about 30 percent of
But the sale also boosts the government's fiscal confidence
as next year's election approaches, and with the coalition
behind in the polls, some commentators expect the government to
roll out a new tax cut, or other expansionary measures.
"If we can vaccinate the Swedish economy and make it safer
by having even lower state debt, then we have protection against
future crises," Norman said of the debt reduction plans.
Government bond auction volumes will remain unchanged after
the sale, the debt office said, though foreign currency
borrowing will decrease.
Nordea shares were down roughly 4 percent on Wednesday
compared with marginal dips on the broader Stockholm bourse
and the EuroStoxx 600 Bank index.
Sweden's move will have been closely watched in London,
where Britain's finance minister, George Osborne, is expected to
start the clock ticking for the sale of its big stakes in Lloyds
and Royal Bank of Scotland later on Wednesday.
He is expected to say he wants to sell part of the
government's 39 percent stake in Lloyds this year or next,
following the climb in bank share prices.
The Swedish government last sold a 6.3 percent stake in
Nordea in February 2011 at 74.5 crowns, a 5 percent discount to
the share price at the time.
"We have had a stabilisation of the market... and reduced
concerns in the bank sector," said Erik Thedeen, state secretary
at the finance ministry, explaining the timing of the new sale.
Nordea's share price has risen 16 percent so far this year.
A bigger stake sale would have also meant a bigger discount,
The Swedish government is Nordea's second-biggest owner
behind Finnish insurance and investment group Sampo,
which owns around a fifth of Nordea.
Sampo has said it would be interested in buying a small
amount of any shares on sale, but does not want to raise its
stake beyond 25 percent. Sampo had no comment on Wednesday.
The sale was carried out via accelerated book building by
Morgan Stanley as global coordinator and joint
bookrunner, with Credit Suisse and SEB as
(Reporting by Mia Shanley, Patrick Lannin, Johan Ahlander,
additional reporting by Ritsuko Ando in Helsinki and Steve
Slater in London; editing by James Jukwey/Ruth Pitchford)