Economic studies
Sweden

Sweden

Population 10.2 million
GDP per capita 54,356 US$
A2
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Synthesis

major macro economic indicators

 

  2017 2018 2019 (e) 2020 (f)
GDP growth (%) 2.4 2.3 1.3 1.3
Inflation (yearly average, %) 1.8 2.0 1.8 1.6
Budget balance (% GDP) 1.4 0.9 0.3 0.2
Current account balance (% GDP) 2.8 1.7 3.8 3.4
Public debt (% GDP) 40.4 38.5 34.6 34.0

(e): Estimate. (f): Forecast.

STRENGTHS

  • Very favourable business climate (#10 in the Doing Business 2020 ranking)
  • Very diversified economy, specialized in high-tech products and the green economy
  • Sound public finances
  • Increasingly dynamic demographics

WEAKNESSES

  • Highly dependent on global demand
  • Tensions on the real estate market
  • Substantial household debt (188% of personal disposable income)
  • Highly concentrated banking sector

RISK ASSESSMENT

Several weakness factors lead to slow growth

Swedish growth is cooling down. Coming from very high growth rates, the economic dynamic is and will be less agile in 2019 and 2020. However, the growth level remains quite high in comparison to other European countries. One reason for the decrease in growth is the weakness of global demand, especially from the main trade partner, Germany. With a very high degree of openness, this weakness has not only a dampening effect on trade per se, but also on the total manufacturing sector. The sentiment indicators dropped sharply and business investments decreased in 2019. This general weakness should hold on in 2020, as global and German growth are expected to remain comparatively low. The pessimistic sentiment had contagious effects on the labour market with freezes in hiring and first dismissals, which lead to an increase of the unemployment rate (the trend of the unemployment rate went up from 6.5% in late 2018 to 6.9% in September 2019, a three-year-high).
Consumer confidence dropped sharply as personal households are more and more insecure about their personal economic future, all the more since the level of private household debt remains very high. It is expected, however, that private consumption expenditures will show some improvement in 2020. The main reason for this is the new national wage negotiation round for the Swedish industry in March, where wages are set for a three year-agreement. The new deal should include a wage increase compared to the last deal in 2017 with annual pay hikes of 2.5-2.6% in 2020/2022. This could be a compromise out of higher inflation expectations in 2019 compared to 2017, on the one hand, and lower productivity numbers on the other.

 

The interest rate environment for the Swedish consumer should remain accommodative in 2020. As the inflation rate has dropped markedly and other central banks have turned around in their exit strategy, it is expected that the Riksbank will stay on hold in its interest rates increases for 2020, after the small hike in December 2019. Additionally, the current Quantitative Easing-purchases of government bonds (SEK 15 billion over six months) should be extended after the planned end in December 2020. Another factor helping private consumption are planned tax cuts for high-income earners and pensioners as well as deductions for job starters in 2020. Residential investments should benefit from this better consumption environment and continue the cautious recovery from the major drop down after the peak in 2018. The strong increase in the population due to higher immigration will help to foster the demand.

 

Sound public and external accounts

Public finances will continue to be robust in 2020, with a small budget surplus expected to be slightly under its medium-term objective of 0.3% of GDP. The new debt anchor of 35% of GDP for public sector debt, however, will be met. The budget of 2020 is a compromise between the government and its supporting parties. Except for the tax decreases/deductions, it also contains capital injections for municipalities and county councils, a higher defence budget but also investments in the renewable energy sector, financed i.a. via higher taxes on plastic carrier bags.

 

The country’s external position will also remain comfortable. Although cars and car parts are a major part of all exports with 19.2%, exports surprisingly increased in 2019 due to a further depreciation of the Swedish Krona. In 2020, the value of exports should come back to normal levels. However, the higher services surplus and the investment income, even with lower holdings of long-term debt securities, should add positively to the current account surplus.

 

A surprising stable alliance

After the election in September 2018, none of the traditional party alliances secured a majority. In the end, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven from the Social Democratic Party (100 seats) could continue his governmental work with the Green party (16 seats), after he stroke a “confidence and supply agreement” with the social-liberal Centre Party (31 seats) and the Liberals (20 seats). They offered their support for the weakest minority government in Swedish history, in exchange for concessions on the labour market reforms as well as tax cuts. This new alliance seems quite stable, as the voters of the Liberals and the Centre Party did not punish their parties for supporting the centre-left government in the European election and in the polls during 2019. Therefore, there are realistic chances that the alliance will hold until the next parliamentary election in 2022.

 

 

Last update : February 2020

Payment

Bills of exchange and promissory notes are neither widely used nor recommended as they must meet a number of formal requirements in order to be considered as legally valid.

Just as the rules for issuing cheques have become more flexible, the sanctions for issuers of uncovered cheques have been relaxed over the years. The use of cheques has subsequently become almost non-existent.

Conversely, use of the SWIFT electronic network by Swedish banks provides a secure, efficient, and cost-effective domestic and international fund-transfer service. Payments are dependent on the buyer’s good faith. Sellers are advised to ensure that their bank account details are correct if they wish to receive timely payment.

Direct debits represent about 10% of non-cash payments in Sweden and are quickly growing in popularity. There are two types of direct debit in Sweden: Autogiro Foretag (AGF) for B2B transactions and Autogiro Privat (AGP) for B2C payments. They can both be used for single or recurring payments.

 

Debt collection

Amicable phase

Amicable settlement aims to recover the debt without transferring the case into a trial procedure. The debtor is informed (either orally or via writing, with written correspondence being preferred) about the debt, the payment deadline, and the consequences of not paying the debt. If debtor agrees to pay the debt, both parties may settle on instalment payments through an official document that sets out the contractual terms of the agreement.

When there is no specific interest clause in the contract, the rate of interest applicable since 2002 is the six-monthly benchmark rate (referensräntan) of the Central Bank of Sweden (Sveriges Riksbank), plus eight percentage points.

Under the Swedish Interest Act (räntelag, 1975, last amended in 2013), interest on damages is awarded from the 30th day following the day on which the creditor addressed a written claim for damages to the defendant, if the plaintiff so requests. In any event, interest may be awarded from the date of service of the summons application.

 

Legal proceedings
Fast-track proceedings

Where claims meet some basic requirements (e.g. payment is overdue, mediation was attempted), creditors can obtain an injunction to pay (Betalningsföreläggande) via summary proceedings through the Enforcement Service. The application has to be made in writing and clearly express the grounds of the claim. No further proof needs to be submitted.

This Enforcement Authority (Kronofog–demyndigheten) orders the debtor to respond within a period of ten days to two weeks. If the debtor fails to reply in time or acknowledge the debt, a verdict will be rendered on the merits of the original application.

While formal, this system offers a relatively straightforward and quick remedy in respect of undisputed claims, which has greatly freed up the courts. Creditors are not required to hire a lawyer but, in some circumstances, would be well advised to do so. On average, the process takes two months from application to decision. The decision is immediately enforceable.

 

Court proceedings

If the debtor contests the debt, the creditor has the decision of either turning to the District Court (the first instance, Tingsrätten) or to terminate the process.

Proceedings involve a preliminary hearing in which the judge attempts to help the parties reach a settlement after examining their case documents, evidence and arguments. It is up to the parties themselves to decide what evidence they wish to submit.

If the dispute remains unresolved, the proceedings continue with written submissions and oral arguments until the main hearing, where the emphasis is on counsels’ pleadings (defence and prosecution) and examination of witnesses’ testimonies.

In accordance with the principle of immediateness, the court bases its decision exclusively on the evidence presented at the trial. Barring exceptional circumstances, the judgement is customarily issued within two weeks thereafter.

As a general rule, the Code of Civil Procedure requires the losing party to bear all legal costs considered reasonable, as well as the attorney fees incurred by the winning party beyond a given threshold claim amount (about SEK 22,250, approximately €2,162).

It takes up to twelve months (in exceptional cases more) to obtain a writ of execution in first instance, bearing in mind that there is a widespread tendency in Sweden to appeal against judgements.

 

Enforcement of a Legal Decision

As soon as a domestic judgment becomes final, it is enforceable. If the debtor does not comply, the creditor can request the court’s enforcement authority to seize and sell the debtor’s assets.

For awards rendered in an EU member-state, special enforcement conditions are provided. When the claim is undisputed, the creditor may apply to the European Enforcement Order, or when the claim does not exceed €2,000, the creditor may start a European Small Claim Procedure. For awards issued in non-EU countries, the Svea Hovrät Court of Appeal must recognize an award in order to enforce it, provided that a recognition and enforcement agreement has been signed between the non-EU country and Sweden.

 

Insolvency Proceedings
Out-of court proceedings

Swedish law does not formally regulate out-of court arrangements. Nevertheless, creditors and debtors can enter into voluntary negotiations in order to negotiate the debt and reach an agreement.

 

Restructuring

The aim of restructuring is to find a financial solution for an insolvent company that is deemed to have sustainable long-term business prospects. It can apply for a restructuring with the local court. If approved, the court will appoint a rekonstruktör to manage the restructuring. The latter will investigate the financial situation of the company, before establishing and implementing a restructuring plan under which up to 75% of the debt may be written off.

 

Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy proceedings are initiated as a consequence of a company becoming permanently insolvent. They aim to wind down an insolvent company by selling its assets and distributing any income to creditors. Either the debtor or the creditor can file a petition before the local court. After the court has declared a company bankrupt, it appoints an administrator that independently takes control over the company’s assets with the main task of realising such assets and repaying the debts of the bankruptcy estate in accordance with the creditors’ statutory ranking.

Corporate Insolvencies in Sweden
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