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.