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STOCKHOLM, March 16 (Reuters) - The board of Nordic lender Nordea will likely propose moving its headquarters from Sweden if the government raises fees for the country’s banking rescue fund, the chairman said on Thursday.
The Swedish government proposed raising fees for the resolution fund - used to bail out failing banks - last month after a plan for a banking tax fell through.
According to a rough estimate from Nordea its contribution to the resolution fund under the new proposal would rise to around 6 billion Swedish crowns ($679 million) in 2019 from 500 million crowns in 2016.
“If there is not significant, tangible, substantial changes of this proposal...it is very, very likely that we will propose to the next general meeting that we change residence,” Nordea Chairman Bjorn Wahlroos told shareholders at an annual general meeting.
“The government’s proposal for the new resolution fee is simply impossible for us to live with.”
Wahlroos said the board was united on the issue. He is also chairman of Finnish insurance group Sampo, Nordea’s biggest shareholder with over 21 percent of the shares.
Banks currently pay an annual fee to the resolution fund, and the fees add about 7 billion crowns to state coffers.
The new proposal, which is backed by the government and the Left Party, would strengthen public finances by more than 3 billion Swedish crowns ($332 million) in 2018 and by more than 6 billion crowns in 2019.
Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson shrugged off Nordea’s threat.
“If they place their head office in another country, that would reduce the risk for Swedish taxpayers the day there will be a crash,” she said earlier this week.
The proposal would hit Nordea harder than other Swedish banks since it recently incorporated its operations in Norway, Finland and Denmark in its Swedish legal structure.
Wahlroos held preliminary talks with the Dutch government last year about a merger of Nordea and ABN Amro, a move that could in any case mean the headquarters would move to the Netherlands. Wahlroos said in October that talks could resume after the Dutch elections. ($1 = 8.8383 Swedish crowns) (Reporting by Johan Ahlander; editing by Johannes Hellstrom and Susan Thomas)