Swedish giant aims for Asian investment

SWEDEN'S Investor Group, which owns big Swedish industrial companies such as Asea Brown Boveri and Saab-Scania, wants to expand its Asian operations.

President Claes Dahlback was in the territory this week to meet investment advisers with a view to enlarging the company's Hong Kong portfolio.

The group set up Investor Hong Kong in 1986 to build a network in the territory and China and to invest on behalf of group companies. But it has kept a low profile so far.

Mr Dahlback said the group had taken ''profitable stakes'' in Crosby Securities and Swank International Optical Co.

Aircraft manufacturer Saab-Scania, a wholly owned subsidiary, had been selling commuter aircraft in the region after setting up an office in Hong Kong in 1985.

Another subsidiary, Asea Brown Boveri (ABB), which specialises in power generation, transmission and distribution, transport, infrastructure and environmental protection, has enjoyed a strong market position in Asia and is making strong inroads into China.

Telecommunications giant Ericsson, in which Investor has a controlling interest, was now very active in the China market, Mr Dahlback said.

And subsidiary Atlas Copco, engaged in construction and mining, was providing compressors for work on the Three Gorges dam in China.

White goods manufacturer Electrolux, in which the group has a minor holding, had also been active in Asia for several years, he said.

Mr Dahlback, who is also a director of ABB and Ericsson, said China held tremendous potential for the group.

''At every board meeting we hear of new projects in China in which we have the capability to participate,'' he said.

Investor is the core of the so-called Wallenberg sphere - the largest shareholder is the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation - which has a long tradition as an active owner of Swedish industrial corporations.

Mr Dahlback said Investor was active in the running of the 12 companies in which it had invested by having one or more of its members on their boards of directors.

''Many of the large industrial restructurings that have taken place in Swedish business have been initiated and come to fruition within the Wallenberg sphere,'' he said.

The group, which was set up in 1916, employs 550,000 people worldwide.

It had sales of 450 billion kronor (about HK$430 billion) last year.

The market value of Investor Group's portfolio last year was more than 23 billion kronor.