Sweden's 'Warren Buffett' eyes bigger investment crown

Fri Mar 18, 2016 1:37pm EDT
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By Mia Shanley

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - In a country where family-run business spheres dominate the landscape, Fredrik Lundberg, often referred to as Sweden's Warren Buffett, is tackling bigger rivals on several fronts.

A new center dedicated to Sweden's Nobel Prize is planned near his company's headquarters on one of Stockholm's Baltic promenades, with funding from the Wallenberg investment empire and the Perssons who created retail giant Hennes & Mauritz.

Lundberg's own firm and its real estate company, whose deputy CEO is his daughter, have objected to the scale of the proposed metal and glass building, citing concerns about their sea view and the value of their century-old properties. The Nobel Centre says its architects have cut it back by 20 percent.

The hitherto Sweden-focused Lundberg began competing directly with the Wallenbergs and others last year when he became chairman of Industrivarden (INDUa.ST: Quote), which backs firms that employ almost half a million people around the world in everything from telecommunications to banking.

He saw the opportunity to turn it around after a corporate spending scandal and a decade of dismal returns; bankers say there may be asset sales at the likes of steel manufacturer SSAB (SSABa.ST: Quote) and truckmaker Volvo (VOLVb.ST: Quote) as he brings down debt.

The 64-year-old magnate, who inherited his construction and property holding Lundbergforetagen (LUNDb.ST: Quote) from his father in the 1980s, earned the Buffett moniker with steadily rising returns: they totaled 160 percent over the past 10 years, well above Sweden's index. reut.rs/22g8HFA

Analysts say his track record bodes well for Industrivarden whose return over 10 years only matched Stockholm's blue-chip index .OMXS30, but his rivals are formidable.

Other investment companies such as Wallenberg-backed Investor Group (INVEb.ST: Quote) and Kinnevik (KINVb.ST: Quote), backed by the Stenbeck family, have returned about 180 percent to shareholders over 10 years, albeit more unevenly, as they tested unchartered areas like e-commerce and put more money into private equity.   Continued...

Swedish businessman Fredrik Lundberg is pictured in this file photo received March 18, 2016. REUTERS/Christine Olsson /TT NEWS AGENCY