Nordea’s Biggest Investor Books $1 Billion Impairment on Stake

The biggest investor in Nordea Bank Abp has revealed a $1 billion impairment on its holding, not long after facing calls to offload the stake entirely.

Sampo Oyj, which owns about 16% of Nordea, said the writedown was due to the gap between Nordea’s share price (which fell last year after it didn’t pay dividends) and its book value (which grew after it retained profits).

Nordea’s book value “increased rapidly, more rapidly than before, because they haven’t paid dividends,” Knut Arne Alsaker, Sampo’s chief financial officer, said in an interview. The bank is “doing well,” he said.

But the impairment comes less than two weeks after Sampo was advised to exit its Nordea stake. Activist investor Elliott Management Corp., which recently bought into Sampo, says selling Nordea could unlock as much as $10 billion in value.

Sampo already sold a 4% stake in Nordea in November, and speculation that it might dump the entire holding is weighing on the bank’s market value. Sampo says it will “over time explore options to reduce its exposure to banking.”

Alsaker said there’s no link between the impairment announced on Thursday and a potential divestment.

“The decision around our investment as such is a different one,” he said. “We are exploring all options around our whole balance sheet, in terms of making sure that we create the most value out of our property and casualty insurance-focused strategy.”

Asked whether he’s in touch with Elliott, Alsaker said Sampo has regular contact with “all shareholders who want to talk.”

“We like to listen to investors who want to communicate views on our strategy,” Alsaker said. “We like the direct feedback from investors.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.