Stockholm, Sweden-headquartered Handelsbanken on Tuesday announced it is divesting its businesses in Denmark and Finland. The banking services operator has operated in Finland since 1985. (Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)

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HANDELSBANKEN on Tuesday announced its decision to divest its business in Finland.

The Stockholm, Sweden-headquartered provider of banking services entered the Finnish market in 1985, presently operating 27 branch offices and employing approximately 600 people. Its share of the market has been relatively small.

The bank revealed it is also withdrawing from Denmark. Finland and Denmark together, it said, have accounted for roughly 10 per cent of its revenue, 13 per cent of its costs and eight per cent of its operating profit.

“The decision is founded on a strategic evaluation of the group and strategic decisions. They’ve considered the size of different geographies and the synergies of international operations,” Hanne Katrama, the managing director of Handelsbanken Finland, stated to Helsingin Sanomat. “It was decided that the group will focus on Sweden, Norway and England and pull out from Finland and Denmark.”

News of the withdrawal came as an utter surprise for the chief shop steward of Handelsbanken in Finland, Kati Ahl.

“We’ve believed firmly that the bank would continue its operations in Finland, so the decision isn’t what we were expecting,” she commented to the newspaper. “This is frankly something I couldn’t have even imagined. But I suppose you’ll never know what the group will decide.”

Ahl also questioned the timing of the announcement.

“I have no idea why this had to be announced in the evening instead of the next workday. I don’t know how many will have received word of this before reading about this in the newspaper,” she explained.

Handelsbanken on Tuesday said the decision will have no immediate effects on either its operations or staff in Finland. “Our customer services and new account sales will continue unchanged, and the sales process that’s about to be launched will have no impact on our customers. The objective is that the customers don’t notice any changes,” said Katrama.

She declined to speculate on the buyer candidates but gauged that there should be plenty of interest in what is a “stable and profitable” business.

Handelsbanken on Tuesday also unveiled an interim report on its operations in Finland. The cumulative operating profit for the first three quarters of the year rose by more than 20 per cent year-on-year, hitting almost 63 million euros. The performance indicators are good, highlighted Katrama.

“We’ve been able to grow profitably. This decision has nothing to do with profitability in Finland, simply strategic choices,” she said.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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