Debated Íslandsbanki Sale into the Wee Hours Skip to content

Debated Íslandsbanki Sale into the Wee Hours

By Yelena

Alþingi parliament
Photo: Golli. Pirate Party MP Halldóra Mogensen.

Iceland’s Parliament debated the recent sale of a 22.5% stake in Íslandsbanki until 2:30 AM this morning. It was the first time Alþingi had convened since before the Easter break and most of the discussion centred on the controversial sale.

The government has received harsh criticism for the share offering’s lack of transparency, and for the 5% discount buyers received on the shares’ market value, despite high demand for the shares. Many have also criticised the fact that smaller, short-term investments were permitted in the sale, and that staff of the consulting company that managed the sale were among the investors. The sale is being investigated by the Central Bank and reviewed by the National Audit Office.

Minister of Finance presented report

Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson presented an oral report on the sale during yesterday’s session. While maintaining that the sale had in general been successful, he admitted that it had raised questions regarding three aspects in particular: the possible participation of employees of the consulting company involved in the sale, the possible participation of buyers who did not fulfill the stated requirements of being professional investors, and the dissemination of information to the public.

Bjarni stated that the public could have been better informed about the sale. He added that it had taked a long time to access and release information about the sale after the offering and some questions had remained unanswered for too long.

Criticise dismantling of state investment company

Opposition MPs criticised the government’s decision to dismantle Icelandic State Financial Investments (ISFI) in light of how the sale went. They questioned whether that decision had truly been discussed at a cabinet meeting, as as an announcement from the government stated. Chairman of the Centre Party Sigmundur Davíð Gunlaugsson asked whether government ministers had any plan as to what would replace the ISFI.

A controversial sale

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 reduced the government’s stake in the bank from 65% to 42.5%.

Two protests have been held where attendees opposed how the sale was handled, calling for Bjarni Benediktsson’s resignation.

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