Nordea Wins Assurances From Finnish Government Ahead of HQ Move

(Bloomberg) -- Finland is promising it won’t add to the list of financial regulations facing Nordea Bank AB as the lender prepares to move its headquarters to the northernmost euro member.

The pledge, made by Finance Minister Petteri Orpo, comes a week before shareholders in Nordea vote on its proposal to relocate from Stockholm. The largest Nordic lender, which has been a vocal critic of Sweden’s tougher rules, has said it wants to move in order to be inside Europe’s banking union.

Finland’s government is “committed to a predictable policy so that we don’t spring any surprises on the financial sector,” Orpo said in an interview in Helsinki.

“As a member of the banking union, Finland offers a stable operating environment,” Orpo said. “That is surely good for a bank of Nordea’s size.”

Nordea’s management drafted the relocation plan last year after relations with Sweden’s government soured. Chief Executive Officer Casper von Koskull, characterizing Nordea’s future in Sweden’s regulatory environment as untenable, said the bank was moving in the hope of finding a “level playing field” versus its European peers.

But before it can move to Helsinki, the Nordic region’s only global systemically important bank needs backing from two-thirds of the shareholders present at its annual shareholder meeting. The vote is due to take place in Stockholm on March 15.

Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., an influential advisory firm, is recommending that investors support the move. Nordea’s largest shareholder, Sampo Oyj, will probably also support the relocation (Sampo and Nordea have the same chairman, Bjorn Wahlroos). Sampo controlled just over 21 percent of Nordea’s share capital at the end of January.

Read more on how Nordea’s shareholders may vote at the AGM

Nordea is urging its owners to support the move to help the bank to “stay relevant in a changing world” and reiterated it sees benefits for strategic planning, financial position and long-term profitability, in a message posted on its website on Thursday.

Orpo says he expects shareholders voting next week will “make wise decisions that are good for Nordea and for its owners.” Being in the euro area and Europe’s banking union provides “a good platform from which to operate,” he said.

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