Trade and Project Financing in Sweden

A Hot Tip about Trade Finance in Sweden

Posted on: 31 Mar 2010

How Do I Get Paid (Methods of Payment)

Common terms of sale are payment within 30 or 90 days after delivery or against documents. Payment is normally prompt, with interest charged and paid if payment is late. All normal methods of payment are used but the most common and preferred method of payment is open account. The use of letters of credit is rare.


An U.S. exporter looking to recover debts should contact the Association of Swedish Debt Collectors for information on and contact with debt collecting agencies.

Credit reports on Swedish companies can be obtained by contacting any of the sources below:

Dun & Bradstreet Sverige AB

Syna AB


(UC AB, the Swedish Business and Credit Information Agency, is jointly owned by all Swedish commercial banks).


How Does the Banking System Operate

The Swedish banking system is made up of four main categories: Swedish commercial banks (joint-stock banks), foreign banks, savings banks and co-operative banks. All the above-mentioned types of banks are - since the amendment of banking legislation in 1969 - entitled to operate in all areas of banking. In November 2008 Sweden had a total of 123 banks


In 1986, Sweden issued a charter for the first 12 foreign-owned commercial banks and since 1990 foreign-owned banks have been entitled to open branch offices in Sweden. These branch offices have primarily concentrated on servicing the business sector. Also in 1990, the restrictions concerning foreign ownership of Swedish bank stock were abolished. The largest foreign bank is Danske Bank, which after acquiring the Swedish Ostgota Bank in 1997 became the fifth largest bank in Sweden.


The banks' activities are closely supervised by the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (Finansinspektionen) to ensure that all necessary standards are met. Swedish banks' financial statements meet the international standards well and are audited by internationally recognized auditors only.


The Swedish Bankers’ Association represents the banks in Sweden. The association disseminates information about the banks and their position in society. The Association has 28 members –banks, financial institutions, mortgage institutions and branches of foreign banks in Sweden. New smaller, so-called ‘niche banks’ have been established. These banks tend to concentrate on certain areas of banking services or methods of banking, e.g. ‘dial-in’ banks for banking services by telephone. All major banks are offering banking services through Internet.


The largest Swedish banks are Nordea (MeritaNordbanken Group’s bank in Sweden), Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB), Svenska Handelsbanken and Swedbank.


Foreign-Exchange Controls

Foreign exchange restrictions in Sweden were removed in 1991. Commercial transactions are in general not subject to any restrictions. There are no restrictions on remittances of profits, or from investment liquidation proceeds. Royalty and license fee payments may be freely transferred out of Sweden. Moreover, yields on invested funds, such as dividends and interest receipts, are usually freely transferred.


Project Financing

EU financial assistance programs provide a wide array of grants, loans, loan guarantees and co-financing for feasibility studies and infrastructure projects in a number of key sectors (e.g., environmental, transportation, energy, telecommunications, tourism, public health). From a commercial perspective, these initiatives create significant market opportunities for U.S. businesses, U.S.-based suppliers, and subcontractors.


The EU supports projects within its Member States, as well as EU-wide "economic integration" projects that cross both internal and external EU borders. In addition, the EU provides assistance to accession countries in Eastern and Southern Europe and Turkey, as well as some of the former Soviet republics.


The European Union provides project financing through grants from the European Commission and loans from the European Investment Bank. Grants from the Structural Funds are distributed through the Member States’ national and regional authorities, and are only available for projects in the 27 EU Member States. All grants for projects in non-EU countries are managed through the EuropeAid Cooperation agency in conjunction with various European Commission departments, called "Directorates-General."


The CSEU Tenders Database


The U.S. Commercial Service at the U.S. Mission to the European Union offers a tool on its website to help U.S.-based companies identify European public procurement opportunities. The database features all current public procurement tenders issued by all national and regional public authorities in the 27 Member States of the European Union, plus four other European countries, and that are open to U.S.-based firms under the terms of the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) implemented in 1995. The database is updated twice weekly and is easy to use with a range of search options, including approximately 20 industry sectors. The database also contains tenders for public procurement contracts relating to structural funds.


EU Structural Funds


The EU Structural Funds, including the European Regional Development Fund, were created in 1975 to assist economically depressed regions of the European Union that required industrial restructuring. The EU earmarked EUR 308 billion for projects under the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund programs for the 2007-2013 period for the EU-27. In addition to funding economic development projects proposed by Member States or local authorities, EU Structural Funds also support specialized projects promoting EU socioeconomic objectives. Member States negotiate regional and “sectoral” programs with officials from the regional policy Directorate-General at the European Commission.


For projects financed through the Structural Funds, Member State officials are the key decision-makers. They assess the needs of their country; investigate projects; evaluate bids; and award contracts. To become familiar with available financial support programs in the Member States, it is advisable for would-be contractors to meet with local officials to discuss local needs.


Tenders issued by Member States’ public contracting authorities for projects supported by EU grants are subject to EU public procurement legislation if they meet the EU minimum contract value requirement for the eligible sector. Below this threshold, tender procedures are subject to national procurement legislation. There are no overt prohibitions against the participation of U.S. companies, either as developers or concessionaires of projects supported partially by the Structural Funds, or as bidders on subsequent public tenders related to such projects, but it is advisable to team up with a local partner. All Structural Fund projects are co-financed by national authorities and most may also qualify for a loan from the European Investment Bank. The private sector is also involved in project financing.


The Cohesion Fund


The Cohesion Fund is another instrument of EU structural policy. Its EUR 61.5 billion (2007-2013) budget seeks to improve cohesion within the EU by funding transport infrastructure and environmental projects in Portugal, Spain, Greece and the twelve new (since 2004) EU Member States from Central and Eastern Europe. These projects are generally co-financed by national authorities, the European Investment Bank, and the private sector.


The Trans-European Networks


The European Union also provides financial support to the Trans-European Networks (TENs) to develop infrastructure, strengthen cohesion and increase employment across greater Europe. Launched at the Essen Counsel (Germany) in 1994, the TENs are a series of transport, telecommunications and energy projects that are continually being expanded and upgraded. The TENs are largely financed by private sector and non-EU sources. The EU does, however, provide grants from the Cohesion Fund, loans from the European Investment Bank (and loan guarantees from the European Investment Fund), and partial feasibility study grants for the TENs. There are no overt EU restrictions on the participation of U.S. firms in the TENs.


Other EU Grants for Member States


Another set of sector-specific grants offers assistance to EU Member States in the fields of science, technology, communications, energy, environmental protection, education, training and research. Tenders related to these grants are posted on the various websites of the directorates-generals of the European Commission. Conditions for participation are strict and participation is usually restricted to EU firms or tied to EU content.


External Assistance Grants


The EuropeAid Cooperation Office is the European Commission agency in charge of managing the EU’s external aid programs. This Agency is responsible for the management of the entire project cycle, from identification to evaluation, while the Directorates-General in charge of External Relations and Development, are responsible for the drafting of multi-annual programs. The EuropeAid website offers extensive information on the range of grant programs, the kind of projects that are eligible, as well as manuals to help interested parties understand the relevant contract law. However, participation to calls for tender for contracts financed by EuropeAid is reserved for enterprises located in the EU Member States and requires that the products used to respond to these projects are manufactured in the EU or in the aid recipient country. But consultants of US nationality employed by a European firm are allowed to form part of a bidding team. European subsidiaries of U.S. firms are eligible to participate in these calls for tender.


Two new sets of programs have been approved for the financing period 2007-2013. As of January 2007, the EU will provide specific Pre-Accession financial assistance to the accession candidate countries that seek to join the EU through a new instrument called the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). Also, the European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) will provide assistance to countries that are the Southern Mediterranean and Eastern neighbors of the EU.


IPA replaces the following programs: PHARE (Poland and Hungary Assistance for Restructuring of the Economy), ISPA (Instrument for Structural Pre-Accession financing transport and environment projects), SAPARD (projects in the agriculture sector), CARDS (aid to southern Balkans) and the Turkey Facility Fund. IPA focuses on priorities linked to the adoption of the acquis communautaire (the body of European Union law that must be adopted by accession candidate countries as a precondition to accession), i.e., building up the administrative and institutional capacities and financing investments designed to help them comply with European Commission law. IPA will also finance projects destined to countries that are potential candidate countries, especially in the Balkans. The budget of IPA for 2007-2013 is EUR 11.4 billion.


ENPI: replaces the former TACIS and MEDA programs. The European Neighborhood Policy program covers the EU’s neighbors to the east and along the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean i.e. Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine. ENPI budget is € 11,9 billion for 2007-2013.


Loans from the European Investment Bank


Headquartered in Luxembourg, the European Investment Bank (EIB) is the financing arm of the European Union. Since its creation in 1958, the EIB has been a key player in building Europe. As the EIB's lending practices evolved over the years, it became highly competent in assessing, reviewing and monitoring projects. As a non-profit banking institution, the EIB offers cost-competitive, long-term lending in Europe. Best known for its project financial and economic analysis, the Bank makes loans to both private and public EU-based borrowers for projects in all sectors of the economy, such as telecommunications, transport, energy infrastructure and environment.


While the EIB mostly funds projects within the EU, it lends outside the EU as well (e.g., in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe; Latin America; and Pacific and Caribbean states). In 2007, the EIB approved loans for projects worth EUR 56.4 billion, of which around 16% was lent outside the EU. The EIB also plays a key role in supporting EU enlargement with loans used to finance improvements in infrastructure, research and industrial manufacturing to help those countries prepare for eventual EU membership.


Projects financed by the EIB must contribute to the socioeconomic objectives set out by the European Union, such as fostering the development of less favored regions; improving European transport and telecommunication infrastructure; protecting the environment; supporting the activities of SMEs; assisting urban renewal; and, generally promoting growth, competitiveness and employment in Europe. Last year, the EIB created a list of projects to be considered for approval and posted the list on its website.


The EIB presents attractive business opportunities to U.S. businesses. EIB lending rates are lower than most other commercial rates. Like all EIB customers, however, U.S. firms must apply the loan proceeds to a project that contributes to the European objectives cited above.


The EIB’s i2i (Innovation 2010 Initiative) is designed to highlight projects that support innovative technology in the European Union, in particular by financing broadband and multimedia networks; the physical or virtual infrastructure providing local access to these networks; and research and development infrastructures, especially in the less developed regions of the European Union. i2i will also finance projects to computerize schools and universities and to provide information technology training in conjunction with public authorities.


The US Mission to the European Union in Brussels has developed a database to help US-based companies bid on EIB public procurement contracts in non-EU countries in particular. The EIB-financed contracts that are open to US-based companies are featured in this database. All the tenders in this database are extracted from the EU’s Official Journal. The EIB database contains on average 50 to 100 tenders and is updated twice per week.


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Posted: 31 March 2010