Legal Obstacles to Revealing Íslandsbanki Buyers

Icelandic State Financial Investments (ISFI) has stated it is not able to publish the data on who purchased shares in Íslandsbanki during last month’s stock offering. The government has been criticised for the share offering’s lack of transparency, and for the 5% discount buyers received on the shares’ market value. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has previously stated that if the ISFI is not able to publish information then the Icelandic Parliament should amend legislation to make it possible.

Íslandsbanki was fully owned by the government until last year, when it sold a 35% stake in the bank, something that had been on the government agenda for years. While that first offering was open to the public, last month’s offering was solely open to professional investors. The second sale was successful, reducing the government’s stake in the bank from 65% to 42.5%.

Buyers’ identity likely falls under bank secrecy

Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson stated yesterday that the information on who the buyers were would be published, if permitted by law. In an interview this morning, Chairman of ISFI’s board Lárus Blöndal stated that ISFI does not consider itself able to publish the data, as it is likely the buyers’ identity falls under bank secrecy regulations. He added that it is virtually unheard of for buyers to be publicly identified when such offerings are conducted abroad.

A total of 209 parties bought shares in the March offering. The Finance Minister has previously stated that Icelandic pension funds were the main purchasers. Lárus stated that all of the buyers could be legally classified as professional investors.

Prime Minister suggests legal amendments

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has argued that when state property is sold, the Icelandic public is entitled to know who the buyers are. During Alþingi’s question period on Monday, she stated that “If any technical factors cause ISFI to consider ifself unable to publish that information, I believe it is right for Alþingi to make appropriate changes to the legal framework so that it can be published, anything else is unacceptable.”

Read more about the sale of state-owned banks in Iceland.

Record Precipitation in Reykjavík Last Month

extreme weather storm Sundlaugavegur

March was unusually wet and snowy across South, Southeast, and West Iceland this year, with record amounts of precipitation in several locations. Precipitation in Reykjavík last month measured three times the monthly average between 1991 and 2020, and was more than has ever been recorded for the month of March. The data is from the Icelandic Met Office’s monthly weather review.

Precipitation in Reykjavík last month measured 209.5 mm, making it the wettest/snowiest March since weather monitoring began. March 1923 is in second place, with 183.2 mm. March 2022 had heavy precipitation even compared to other months of the year. Monthly precipitation has only been measured higher four times in Reykjavík: in November 1993, February 1921, January 1907, and November 1958. January 1842 and December 1843 were also exceptionally rainy, but the measurements for those months are unconfirmed.

Considering the amount of rain and snow, it’s not surprising that March was not particularly sunny in the nation’s capital. Reykjavík only had 68.5 hours of sunshine last month, which is 41.8 hours below the March average between 1991 and 2020. Akureyri, North Iceland, on the other hand, had 112.1 sunshine hours in March, which is 34.3 hours more than the average for that month between the same time frame. Akureyri has not experienced a March with as much sunshine since 1996.

Reykjavík had 14 snowy days last month, five more than average; while Akureyri experienced 11, which is five fewer than average between the years 1991 and 2020.

The Northman Premieres in London

the northman film

The Northman, a film written by Icelandic author Sjón and Robert Eggers, premiered in London yesterday. A “Viking revenge movie,” the film also features a few Icelanders, including a brief appearance by Björk. The premiere was well-received, with one critic calling the film “spectacular” and “visually stunning.”

A star-studded cast graces the action-filled epic, including Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, and Alexander Skarsgård as Prince Amleth, the central character. Icelanders Ingvar E. Sigurðsson and Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson also make an appearance in the film.

Björk in The Northman
A screenshot from the official trailer of The Northman / YouTube. Icelandic musician Björk in the role of a seer.

The film follows the life of Prince Amleth, who goes on a quest to avenge his father’s murder. The killer is none other than the prince’s uncle, who also kidnaps the boy’s mother. The script is based on the same Scandinavian folk tale that inspired Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

The Northman premieres in Iceland on April 14.