Handelsbanken CEO Named Chairman in Industrivaerden Moves

Svenska Handelsbanken AB Chief Executive Officer Paer Boman will shift to lead its board following the early departure of the chairman at main shareholder Industrivaerden AB after reports of misuse of corporate jets.

Sverker Martin-Loef will resign as head of Industrivaerden’s board, prompting management changes across the investment company’s holdings. The 71-year-old, who had planned to retire next year, will now leave his positions at the respective companies’ annual meetings in coming months, the Stockholm-based investor said in a statement.

The reshuffle comes after extensive reporting in Swedish media about flights involving Martin-Loef and managers of Svenska Cellulosa AB, the Stockholm-based hygiene-products maker in which Industrivaerden also holds a large stake. SCA is investigating the planes’ use.

“Despite the fact that this shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise, there doesn’t seem to have been a firm plan in place, ” Carina Lundberg Markow, head of corporate governance at Folksam, said by phone. Folksam owns about 5.6 million B-shares in SCA, corresponding to 0.8% of the capital, she said.

Like the Wallenberg family’s holding company Investor AB, Industrivaerden dominates a number of major Swedish corporations by owning or controlling substantial minority stakes. The group often also commands indirect influence by connections to other leading shareholders in the same companies, including corporate pension foundations.

Industrivaerden CEO Anders Nyren, currently also Handelsbanken’s chairman, will step down from those posts to lead the holding company’s board. Martin-Loef will also depart as chairman of SCA and steelmaker SSAB AB and leave his board seats at wireless network maker Ericsson AB and Handelsbanken.

‘Important Tool’

In an interview with Bloomberg earlier this week, Martin-Loef said that corporate jets are an “important tool” for a global company like SCA, adding that the group hadn’t been able to adequately communicate the facts about how they were used.

Martin-Loef was SCA’s CEO from 1988 until 2002 and has chaired the company’s board since then. He has long been seen as one of the most powerful figures in Swedish business. Amid the recent controversies, he’s been criticized for his response, which included telling business daily Dagens Industri he suspected Industrivaerden had been the victim of espionage.

“The way they have handled this doesn’t inspire confidence,” Folksam’s Lundberg Markow said. ‘‘There’s still an underlying trust in the Industrivaerden sphere, but in the last year there have been some question marks.”

Handelsbanken Successor

Martin-Loef’s departure may herald a bigger role for Fredrik Lundberg, a major Industrivaerden shareholder. He’ll be nominated as vice chairman of Industrivaerden’s board.

Industrivaerden controlled 10.2 percent of the share capital and 10.3 percent of the voting rights in Stockholm-based Handelsbanken as of the end of September. The holding company’s other large stakes include 15.2 percent of the voting rights at Ericsson, 29.4 percent at SCA, 24.4 percent at construction company Skanska AB and 17.7 percent at SSAB. Among Swedish banks, Handelsbanken ranks second by market value to Nordea Bank AB.

Boman also will be nominated as new chairman of SCA. Industrivaerden said his successor as Handelsbanken CEO will be appointed before the bank’s annual meeting in March.

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