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SEB shares plunge 14% ahead of TV programme on money laundering

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By Reuters
SEB shares plunge 14% ahead of TV programme on money laundering
FILE PHOTO: The logo for Nordic bank SEB Group is seen at the SIBOS banking and financial conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo   -   Copyright  Chris Helgren(Reuters)

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – SEB <SEBa.ST> has been informed that a planned Swedish TV news programme on suspected money laundering in the Baltics will include information concerning the bank, it said on Friday, sending its shares down almost 14%.

The bank had received questions from the public service broadcaster’s investigative news programme “Uppdrag Granskning” but had no further knowledge on the content of the programme, it said in a statement.

SEB added it would evaluate any information shown in the programme and compare with its own analyses and previously handled cases.

The news risks dragging SEB into a money laundering scandal it has so far managed to avoid but which has derailed the fortunes of Nordic rivals Swedbank <SWEDa.ST> and Danske Bank <DANSKE.CO> and rocked the wider banking sector in the region.

“We haven’t received that much information yet, but they have said they will do a programme on suspected money laundering in the Baltics and in that context they have information regarding SEB,” SEB spokesman Frank Hojem said.

In recent years, Denmark’s Danske Bank and Sweden’s Swedbank have been caught up in money laundering scandals involving their Baltic branches, leading to investigation in several countries.

Swedbank has lost around 40% of its market value since allegations surfaced that its Estonian branch processed suspect gross transactions of up to 20 billion euros (£17 billion) a year from mostly Russian non-residents between 2010 and 2016.

SEB shares were down almost 14% in early Stockholm trade. The stock had gained 7.8% this year prior to Friday’s session.

Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Robin Rane said investors were uncertain ahead of what might come to light on Wednesday when the program is scheduled to be broadcast on Nov. 20.

“There have been some really gloomy stories in both Swedbank and Danske Bank in the past year so people are fearing something similar for SEB,” Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Robin Rane said regarding the program, which is scheduled to be broadcast on Nov. 20.

Business in Estonia accounted for 5% of SEB’s operating profit last year, according to its 2018 annual report. SEB is the second biggest bank in Estonia, behind Swedbank, in terms of its market share in banking services such as deposits and lending.

In April SEBCEO Johan Torgeby said he was “comfortable” with how the bank had conducted itself in the past but that there were no guarantees.

“If new information emerges that has previously not been known to SEB, SEB will take action immediately,” the bank said.

Sweden’s financial supervisory authority declined to comment on the news programme.

(Reporting by Colm Fulton, Helena Soderpalm and Johan Ahlander; additional reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Niklas Pollard and Mark Potter)