SWEDEN - Swedish pension funds are unfazed by renewed merger rumours between Nordea, the Nordic region's largest financial services group, and third-largest SEB AB.

The speculation arose after comments by Mark Wallenberg, whose billionaire family is SEB's largest shareholder, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He was reported as having said that "consolidation is in the cards".

During last September's Swedish general election campaign, the winning coalition pledged that in government it would sell off the state's 19.9% stake in Nordea.

However, Swedish pension industry experts told IPE that a merger between Nordea, which had a net inflow in institutional assets under management in 2006 of €1.1bn as opposed to a net outflow of €200m in 2005, and SEB, which had institutional AUM of €53.1bn in 2005, would not significantly affect the industry.

Peter Norman, chief executive of the Seventh Swedish National Pension Fund, said the rumours had been around for a number of years: "The chairman of Investor AB [holding 18.5% of SEB's voting rights], Mr Wallenberg, has said something in the press, but he has done so before and Nordea has also said that they see SEB as a potential partner."

Norman added: "If there should be a merger that would definitely affect the Swedish banking community, but it would definitely not affect us as an organisation and I doubt it will affect the pension industry."

Peter Hansson, chief executive at the €1.5bn Swedish industry-wide savings institutions pension fund, SPK, said: "If there is a merger between Swedish banks or international banks you need to judge them on the basis of how they look when it happens. I don't see that as a problem."

A spokesman at Nordea in Finland said tat a merger would probably not affect the firm's operations: "When looking at our ownership structure we have one major owner and otherwise it is very much institutional owners that are distributed around the world, so looking at that structure it is a very liquid stock and it is a very much traded stock."