Nordea’s Biggest Shareholder to ‘Materially’ Reduce Stake

The largest shareholder in Nordea Bank Abp plans to offload much of its roughly 16% stake in the Nordic region’s biggest lender following public calls from an activist investor.

Sampo Oyj, which is best known for its bets on the insurance industry, intends for its holding in Nordea to “be materially reduced over the next 18 months,” according to a statement released on its capital markets day in Helsinki. Chief Executive Officer Torbjorn Magnusson said that means “clearly more than half” will be offloaded.

Sampo’s exit from Nordea has been on the cards since November, when it sold about 4% of the bank at a loss relative to the market price. The Finnish holding company has faced intense pressure to dump the entire remaining stake, most recently from activist investor Elliott Management Corp.

Shares in Nordea initially slipped when trading started on Wednesday morning, but were little changed by noon local time. Sampo gained almost 2%.

Read more: Top Nordea Investor Faces CMD Showdown as Elliott Seeks Exit

By exiting Nordea, Sampo plans to get closer to its goal of being “a pure insurance group.” It hopes a strategy of focusing on “high-quality” property and casualty businesses will provide “the greatest potential for long-term value creation.” Sampo wants to increase underwriting profits from those operations “by a mid-single digit percentage” each year relative to 2020 (excluding the impact of the pandemic).

Other highlights from the CMD...

  • Sampo said any M&A activity will be limited to bolt-on transactions in the Nordics
  • The overall aim is to simplify the group by reducing investments in non-P&C insurance operations
  • Sampo committed to targeting a progressive insurance dividend; excess capital from the Nordea divestment will be returned to owners
  • Plans to exit financial investments, or so-called PE investments, when they mature
  • Sampo isn’t planning a Mandatum spin-off
  • Sampo isn’t planning to sell its Topdanmark stake, but sees “no opportunity” to increase its holding at this stage

Aside from Nordea, Sampo owns If property and casualty insurer and Mandatum Life (and newly created Mandatum Asset Management overseeing the insurers’ assets). Sampo also has large stakes in Denmark’s second-biggest non-life insurer Topdanmark A/S, as well as U.K.-based car and home insurer Hastings Group Holdings Plc. It also holds shares in Saxo Bank A/S, Nordax Bank AB, Nets A/S and Norwegian Finans Holding ASA.

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