Denmark is party to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO). State owned entities (SOEs) hold dominant positions in rail, energy, utilities, and broadcast media in Denmark. Large-scale public procurement must go through public tender in accordance with EU legislation. Competition from SOEs is not considered a barrier to foreign investment in Denmark. As an OECD member, Denmark promotes and upholds the OECD Corporate Governance Principals and subsidiary SOE Guidelines.
Denmark has no current plans to privatize its SOEs.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in Finland are active in chemicals, petrochemicals, plastics and composites; energy and mining; environmental technologies; food processing and packaging; industrial equipment and supplies; marine technology; media and entertainment; metal manufacturing and products; services; and travel. The Ownership Steering Act (1368/2007) regulates the administration of state-owned companies: https://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/2007/en20071368.
In general, SOEs are open to competition except where they have a monopoly position, namely in alcohol retail and gambling. The Ownership Steering Department in the Prime Minister’s Office has ownership steering responsibility for Finnish SOEs, and is responsible for Solidium, a holding company wholly owned by the State of Finland and a minority owner in nationally important listed companies.
Finnish state ownership steering complies with the OECD Principles of Corporate Governance.
The Parliamentary Advisory Council in the Prime Minister’s Office serves in an advisory capacity regarding SOE policy; it does not make recommendations regarding the actual business in which the individual companies are engaged. The government has proposed changing its ownership levels in several companies and increasing the number of companies steered by the Prime Minister’s Office. Parliament decides the companies in which the State may relinquish its sole ownership (100 percent), its control of ownership (50.1 percent) or minority ownership (33.4 percent of votes). For more see https://vnk.fi/en/government-ownership-steering/ownership-policy
In April 2020, the Government issued a new resolution on ownership policy, which will guide state-owned companies for the duration of the government term (until spring 2023). The Government Resolution on ownership policy will continue to pursue a predictable, forward-looking ownership policy that safeguards the strategic interests of the state. State ownership will be assessed from the perspectives of overall benefit to the national economy, development of the operations and value of companies, and the efficient distribution of resources. The new Government Resolution on ownership policy strongly emphasizes the fight against climate change, the use of digitalization and issues of corporate social responsibility.
Finland opened domestic rail freight to competition in early 2007, and in July 2016, Fenniarail Oy, the first private rail operator on the Finnish market, began operations. In November 2020, Estonian based Openrail Finland’s rail freight operations started in Finland. Passenger rail transport services will be opened to competition in stages, starting with local rail services in southern Finland. Based on an agreement between Finnish State Railways (VR) and the Ministry of Transport and Communications, VR has exclusive rights to provide passenger transport rail services in Finland until the end of 2024. The exclusive right applies to all passenger rail transport in Finland, excluding the commuter train transport services, provided by the Helsinki Regional Transport Agency (HSL). HSL put its commuter train transport services out for tender in February 2020, VR won the tender and will continue provide passenger rail service for the next ten years. The value of southern Finland commuter train services is USD 67 million per year, with 200 000 daily passengers. Three wholly state-owned enterprises will be separated from Finnish State Railways (VR) to create a level playing field for all operators: a rolling stock company, a maintenance company, and a real estate company. Cross-border transportation between Finland and Russia was opened to competition in December 2016. Trains to and from Russia can be operated by any railroad with permission to operate in the EU. This was earlier VR’s exclusive domain. Fenniarail Oy has an agreement with VR regarding information exchange between authorities in Finland and Russia, approvals of rail wagons on the Finnish rail network and the safety of rail wagons. The agreement was signed in January 2017 for an initial trial period.
Parliament makes all decisions identifying the companies in which the State may relinquish sole ownership (100 percent of the votes) or control (minimum of 50.1 percent of the votes), while the Government decides on the actual sale. The State has privatized companies by selling shares to Finnish and foreign institutional investors, through both public offerings and directly to employees. Sales of direct holdings of the State totaled USD 2.89 billion (2007 – 2021). Solidium’s share sales totaled some USD 7.17 billion ( 2007 – 2021). According to the present Government Program, the proceeds from the sale of state assets are primarily to be used for the repayment of central government debt. Up to 25%, but no more than USD 168 million of any annual revenues exceeding USD 448 million, may be used for projects designed to strengthen the economy and promote growth.
The Government issued a new resolution on state-ownership policy in May 2016, seeking to ensure that corporate assets held by the State are put to more efficient use to boost economic growth and employment.
The Icelandic Government owns wholly or has majority shares in 37 companies, including systemically important companies such as energy companies, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RUV) and Iceland Post. Other notable SOEs are Islandsbanki and Landsbankinn (two out of three commercial banks in Iceland), Isavia (public company that operates Keflavik International Airport), and ATVR (the only company allowed to sell alcohol to the general public). Here is a list of SOEs: https://www.stjornarradid.is/verkefni/rekstur-og-eignir-rikisins/felog-i-eigu-rikisins/. Total assets of SOEs in 2019 amounted to 5,293 billion ISK (approx. $41.7 billion) and SOEs employed around 6,000 people that same year. In terms of assets and equity, Landsbankinn (one of three commercial banks in Iceland) is the largest SOE in Iceland, and Isavia employs the most people.
State-owned enterprises (SOEs) generally compete under the same terms and conditions as private enterprises, except in the energy production and distribution sector. Private enterprises have similar access to financing as SOEs through the banking system.
As an OECD member, Iceland adheres to the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance. The Iceland Chamber of Commerce in Iceland, NASDAQ OMX Iceland and the Confederation of Icelandic Employers have issued guidelines that mirror the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance. Iceland is party to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
For SOEs operating within the private sector in a competitive environment, the general guideline from the Icelandic government is that all decisions of the board of the SOE should ensure a level playing field and spur competition in the market.
In the midst of the banking crisis, the state, through the Financial Supervisory Authority (FME), took over Iceland’s three largest commercial banks, which collapsed in October 2008, and subsequently took over several savings banks to allow for uninterrupted banking services in the country. The government has stated its intention to privatize Landsbanki and Islandsbanki. The Bank Shares Management Company, established by the state in 2009, manages state-owned shares in financial companies.
The government of Iceland has acquired stakes in many companies through its ownership of shares in the banks; however, it is the policy of the government not to interfere with internal or day-to-day management decisions of these companies. Instead, in 2009, the state established the Bank Shares Management Company to manage the state-owned shares in financial companies. The board of this entity, consisting of individuals appointed by the Minister of Finance, appoints a selection committee, which in turn chooses the State representative to sit on the boards of the various companies.
While most energy producers are either owned by the state or municipalities, there is free competition in the energy market. That said, potential foreign investment in critical sectors like energy is likely to be met by demands for Icelandic ownership, either formally or from the public. For example, a Canadian company, Magma Energy, acquired a 95 percent stake in the energy production company HS Orka in 2010, but later sold a 33.4 percent stake to the Icelandic pension funds in the face of intense public pressure.
Iceland’s universal healthcare system is mainly state-operated. However, few legal restrictions to private medical practice exist; private clinics are required to maintain an agreement regarding payment for services with the Icelandic state, a foreign state, or an insurance company.
There are no privatization programs in Iceland at the moment. However, the government of Iceland owns two commercial banks (Landsbankinn and Islandsbanki) and has stated that it intends to privatize both. The government took ownership of the banks when the Icelandic banking system collapsed in 2008. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs reiterated on January 29, 2021 its intent to sell government of Iceland shares in Islandsbanki.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
The Swedish state is Sweden’s largest corporate owner and employer. Forty-six companies are entirely or partially state-owned, of which two are listed on the Stockholm stock exchange, and have government representatives on their boards. Approximately 129,000 people are employed by these companies, including associated companies. Sectors, which feature State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), include energy/power generation, forestry, mining, finance, telecom, postal services, gambling, and retail liquor sales. These companies operate under the same laws as private companies, although the government appoints board members, reflecting government ownership. Like private companies, SOEs have appointed boards of directors, and the government is constitutionally prevented from direct involvement in the company’s operations. Like private companies, SOE’s publish their annual reports, which are subject to independent audit. Private enterprises compete with public enterprises under the same terms and conditions with respect to access to markets, credit, and other business operations. Moreover, Sweden is party to the General Procurement Agreement (GPA) within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Swedish SOEs adhere to the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance for SOEs. Further information regarding the Swedish SOEs can be found here: http://www.regeringen.se/regeringens-politik/bolag-med-statligt-agande/.
The current Sweden’s Government, voted into office in September 2014 and returned to office after the most recent general elections in 2018, has a mandate to divest or liquidate its holdings in Bilprovningen (Swedish Motor-Vehicle Inspection Company), Bostadsgaranti, Lernia, Orio (formerly Saab Automobile Parts), SAS, and Svensk Exportkredit (SEK). If the Government of Sweden decides to divest or liquidate holdings, then a public bidding process would be implemented.