In Sweden, the crisis of the real estate group SBB raises fears for the financial stability of the country

    Apartment building in Västra Motala, Sweden, in June 2022.

    What if the difficulties of the Swedish real estate empire SBB were just a harbinger of a general collapse? In Stockholm, the center-right government, supported by the extreme right, wants to be reassuring and affirms that it will do everything to guarantee the financial stability of the country. But a race against time is now engaged to find buyers and avoid the bankruptcy of the group, which owns around two thousand properties in the Nordic countries.

    Everywhere in Sweden, municipalities are expressing their concern, fearing that their schools, retirement homes and public housing, but also their town halls or police stations, will fall into the hands of foreign companies, not to mention the barracks of the Dalécarlie regiment, in the center of the country, owned by SBB.

    “It would not be good, for example, for investors with ties to the Russian state to buy (these) properties “said Asa Welander, head of the national police supply unit, confirming the security dimension of the case.

    Former mayor converted

    The story begins in March 2016. After leaving politics, Ilija Batljan, the former social democrat mayor of Nynäshamn, a seaside town south of Stockholm, founded the company Samhällsbyggnadsbolaget i Norden AB (SBB). It proposes to buy from the municipalities buildings housing various public services and HLM to rent them back immediately, within the framework of long-term contracts. The idea is to derive stable and guaranteed income from it, the tenants being extremely reliable.

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    SBB comes at the right time: many Swedish municipalities are facing increasing financial difficulties. They are ready to sell goods, to quickly get their hands on cash. The association of Swedish municipalities and regions (SKR) nevertheless warns of the additional long-term costs.

    But local elected officials are turning a deaf ear. Example: in August 2018, the group bought the Sara culture house in the municipality of Skelleftea, in northern Sweden, for one billion crowns (86 million euros). In the process, the municipality signs a fifty-year lease of 2.2 billion crowns.

    Several companies share the market, but SBB is the most aggressive. Taking advantage of almost zero interest rates, she took on massive debt on the bond market, while the value of her portfolio soared, allowing her to finance new loans. At the end of 2021, its value is estimated at 150 billion crowns.

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