Sweden Sets Up $23 Billion Emergency Backstop for Utilities

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Sweden’s government will provide Nordic and Baltic utilities as much as 250 billion kronor ($23.2 billion) in credit guarantees as it seeks to prevent Russia’s energy curbs from setting off a financial crisis.

The measure is aimed at helping companies struggling to meet the surging collateral requirements needed to trade electricity, and avoid the threat of some going into technical defaults as soon as Monday, Finance Minister Mikael Damberg said at a news conference in Stockholm. Utilities registered with Nasdaq Clearing AB are eligible for the guarantees.

“The issue is currently isolated to energy producers, but unless we act, it could have contagion effects on the rest of the financial market,” the minister said on Sunday. “Ultimately, it could lead to a financial crisis.”

The surging price of energy in Europe has made it more expensive for utilities to buy and sell electricity, because of the collateral required to guarantee trades on power markets facing unprecedented turbulence. Fortum Oyj of neighboring Finland said Aug. 29 its collateral rose by 1 billion euros ($1 billion) in a week to 5 billion euros, excluding funds posted by its German subsidiary Uniper SE.

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