The ownership role

The preparatory documents to the Swedish Companies Act emphasise the importance of active ownership.

Shareholders provide the business sector with risk capital, but they also contribute to the efficiency and dynamism of individual companies and the business sector in general by buying and selling shares, as well as by participating in and exercising influence at shareholders' meetings. Active shareholder participation promotes a healthy balance of power between owners, the board and the executive management.

Ownership structure on the Swedish stock market differs significantly from that in countries such as the United Kingdom or the United States. While the majority of listed companies in those countries have a very diverse ownership structure, ownership in Sweden is often concentrated to single or small numbers of major shareholders, as is the case in many continental European countries. These shareholders often play an active ownership role and take particular responsibility for the company, for example by sitting on the board of directors.

Swedish society takes a positive view of major shareholders taking particular responsibility for companies by using seats on boards of directors to actively influence governance. At the same time, major holdings in companies must not be misused to the detriment of the company or the other shareholders. The Companies Act therefore contains a number of provisions which offer protection to minority shareholders, such as requiring qualified majorities for a range of decisions at shareholders' meetings