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March 1, 2010

SWEDEN: Government earmarks funds for ailing auto industry

The Swedish government has set up a venture capital firm in an attempt to revitalise the country’s auto industry which is finding it increasingly difficult to secure financing from private equity groups.

The Swedish government has set up a venture capital firm in an attempt to revitalise the country’s auto industry which is finding it increasingly difficult to secure financing from private equity groups.

Fouriertransform has already had some 50 inquiries from companies looking for money, said chief executive officer Per Nordberg. It made its first investment in October and wants to buy stakes in one or two companies a month, he added.

Fouriertransform received SEK3bn (US$419m) last year and has funneled SEK260m ($36.5m) to four private companies.

Nordberg said: “The Swedish auto industry is facing a serious crisis. “Many companies have great ideas but are basically at a standstill.”

The IF Metall union said 40,000 automotive jobs have been lost over the past 18 months from a pre-crisis total of 140,000. About half the losses have been at suppliers while truckmaker Volvo, Volvo Cars and Saab Automobile have also trimmed employees.

Nordberg said that Fouriertransform is seeking an average annual investment return of at least 15-18% which, some analysts told Bloomberg News, may be an excessive demand.

Fouriertransform may get more money to invest, though current government plans don’t include additional funding. Investments will typically have a five- to eight-year span, with little or no return the first few years, Nordberg said.

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