Danske Says It's Looking Into Selling Its Swedish Pension Assets

(Bloomberg) -- Danske Bank A/S said it’s looking into selling its pension assets in Sweden and that talks with a potential buyer are already under way.

The news comes as Denmark’s biggest bank finds itself embroiled in one of Europe’s worst ever money laundering cases, potentially resulting in hefty fines amid multiple criminal investigations. Danske’s acting chief executive, Jesper Nielsen, told Bloomberg earlier this week that the bank was looking into exiting some non-core assets, though he said such divestments were not viewed by Danske as a way to generate more money to cover potential fines.

Danske Says It's Looking Into Selling Its Swedish Pension Assets

In a statement on Thursday, Danske said it was informing the market of its “negotiations with a specific buyer” following a media inquiry. The talks are “ongoing, and there can be no certainty that a transaction will be concluded,” the Copenhagen-based bank said. It didn’t identify the buyer.

Danish financial daily Borsen on Friday named the potential buyer as private equity fund Polaris, which it said was making an offer in excess of 2 billion kroner ($305 million).

Danske shares were up as much as 3.3 percent during morning trading in Copenhagen.

Nordea said in a note that the price reported by Borsen on the surface appears to be “too low” for a market share in Sweden of about 8 percent. However, “a capital gain should be regarded as positive by the market in view of the overall low valuation of the share,” Nordea said.

News of a possible sale of Danske’s Swedish pension business, which serves about 150,000 customers, comes roughly a year after the bank agreed to buy the Danish pension operations of Stockholm-based SEB AB for about $1 billion, as part of a goal of expanding its wealth management division.

This year, the bank has been forced to focus on its laundering scandal. Danske has admitted that much of about $230 billion that flowed through a tiny Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015 was probably illicit in origin. The bank has already built a capital reserve of about $2.7 billion to cover the fallout of the case, but says it’s continuing to add to that amount. That’s well above the $1.5 billion in extra capital that it’s been ordered to hold by the regulator, in connection with the laundering scandal.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.