(Bloomberg) -- Sweden’s battered commercial property sector could be in for further consolidation after one of the country’s biggest landlords appointed a longtime industry insider from a rival company to be its new chief executive.
On Friday, Samhallsbyggnadsbolaget i Norden AB — or SBB, as it is more commonly known — said that Leiv Synnes, 52, will take the helm of a company that has found itself at the center of the country’s real estate crisis. SBB saw its shares tumble more than 90% from a 2021 peak as investors feared an $8 billion debt pile looked increasingly unstable. Sweden-born Synnes will replace outgoing CEO and founder Ilija Batljan.
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Synnes has spent the past 19 years working under Roger Akelius, a Swedish property tycoon who has steadily grown his influence in the sector even as broad concern over complex shareholding structures and cross-ownership webs continues to unnerve investors.
Since 2014, Synnes has controlled the purse strings of a $6.6 billion property empire as Akelius Residential Property AB’s Chief Financial Officer. Synnes proved himself to be a shrewd dealmaker, and in contrast to the outspoken Batljan, somebody who has so far avoided the limelight.
“It is not possible to fully credit Leiv for all his hard work and many contributions, which have played a large part in making Akelius the company it is today,” said Akelius’ CEO Ralf Spann in a statement.
The appointment, together with reports of investor interest in SBB’s assets, saw the company’s share price soar 53% on Friday. The stock had tumbled to a record low the day prior.
Akelius emerged as the biggest owner in rival landlord Castellum AB after the company last year bought a stake from another under-pressure CEO, Rutger Arnhult. The year prior, Akelius won praise for selling a portfolio of properties worth 92.5 billion Swedish kronor ($8.6 billion) to privately-owned landlord Heimstaden Bostad AB at the top of the market cycle.
Synnes’s move likely came with the full blessing of Roger Akelius, who as recently as Wednesday boasted to local media that he had the firepower to buy 40 billion kronor worth of assets.
“The transition of Leiv from Akelius to SBB is taking place in complete agreement between Lennart Schuss [SBB’s chairman] and myself,” the property tycoon told the Swedish business weekly Affarsvarlden on Friday. “Akelius hardly has any loans so Leiv is not needed in Akelius’ top management,” he added.
Akelius also said that he has “no views on SBB’s market value, and no plans,” but that is unlikely to end speculation that he is somehow asserting himself over another struggling landlord.
“It’s naturally no coincidence someone from Akelius is taking the CEO job at SBB, but it is hard to say what it means,” said Joakim Bornold, founder of savings platform Levler. “We’ll just have to wait and see as to what role Akelius wants to play in corporate consolidation in the Swedish property sector.”
--With assistance from Christopher Jungstedt, Jonas Ekblom, Anton Wilen and Niclas Rolander.
(Updates with share price, chart.)
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