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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Danske looking into selling its Swedish pension assets

Denmark’s biggest bank finds itself embroiled in one of Europe’s worst ever money laundering cases

The headquarters of Danske Bank in Copenhagen, Denmark. Bloomberg
The headquarters of Danske Bank in Copenhagen, Denmark. Bloomberg

Danske Bank said it is looking into selling its pension assets in Sweden and that talks with a potential buyer are already under way.

The news comes as Denmark’s biggest bank finds itself embroiled in one of Europe’s worst ever money laundering cases, potentially resulting in hefty fines amid multiple criminal investigations. Danske’s acting chief executive Jesper Nielsen said that the bank was looking into exiting some non-core assets, though he maintained such divestments were not viewed by Danske as a way to generate more money to cover potential fines.

In a statement, Danske said it was informing the market of its “negotiations with a specific buyer” following a media inquiry. The talks are “ongoing, and there can be no certainty that a transaction will be concluded,” the Copenhagen-based bank said. It didn’t identify the buyer.

Danish financial daily Borsen on Friday named the potential buyer as private equity fund Polaris, which it said was making an offer in excess of $305 million.

Danske shares were up as much as 3.3 per cent on Friday in Copenhagen.

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Read more:

Denmark's Danske Bank could face $630 million fine

EU calls for probe into Danske Bank money laundering scandal

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News of a possible sale of Danske’s Swedish pension business, which serves about 150,000 customers, comes roughly a year after the bank agreed to buy the Danish pension operations of Stockholm-based SEB for about $1 billion, as part of a goal of expanding its wealth management division.

This year, the bank has been forced to focus on its laundering scandal. Danske has admitted that much of about $230bn that flowed through a tiny Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015 was probably illicit in origin.

The bank has already built a capital reserve of about $2.7bn to cover the fallout of the case, but says it’s continuing to add to that amount. That’s well above the $1.5bn in extra capital that it’s been ordered to hold by the regulator, in connection with the laundering scandal.