STOCKHOLM, April 22 (Reuters) - Sweden’s Swedbank said late on Wednesday it was putting the decision on whether to go ahead with the payment of its annual dividend on hold until the consequences of the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus became clearer.
The decision came amid political pressure from government ministers and authorities to shelve dividend plans in light of the pandemic that has killed about 2,000 people in Sweden and caused a deep slump for the export-led economy.
The bank set a May 28 date for its annual general meeting, but added that the assembled shareholders would not vote on whether to go ahead with the planned dividend payment for 2019 of 8.80 crowns per share announced in January.
“The bank’s financial position is strong, both from a capital and a liquidity perspective, and the bank will continue to support its customers with financing and advice during these difficult times,” Swedbank said in a statement.
“When the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic are clearer, the Board of Directors intends to, if the conditions are appropriate, to summon an Extra General Meeting, and (at) this meeting decide on the dividend.”
Domestic rivals such as SEB and Handelsbanken have already said they were putting their dividend decision on hold. Swedbank is due to report first-quarter results on Thursday. (Reporting by Niklas Pollard; editing by Johannes Hellstrom)