Svenska Spel cancels dividend and furloughs land-based staff

31 March 2020

Sweden’s former gambling monopoly Svenska Spel has announced a series of measures to help the business mitigate the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, including cancelling a proposed dividend and furloughing the vast majority of its casino staff.

The operator’s online subsidiary, Svenska Spel Sport & Casino, established ahead of the country’s igaming market opening from January 2019, is also affected, with 45 of its 135 employees shifted to part-time working.

This, it said, was due to sports betting activity grinding to a halt as a result of sporting events around the world being suspended.

The biggest impact will be seen on its land-based business, with all four of its Casino Cosmopol-branded venues shuttered last week (27 March), alongside all restaurant casinos, after the Swedish government banned gatherings of more than 50 people.

This will see 800 of Svenska Spel’s 900 land-based staff across the casinos in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö and Sundsvall and at its head office furloughed until operations can resume. The operator is preparing to negotiate with trade unions on providing short-term work for the employees affected.

“We are implementing these measures to adapt the business to the current situation, and are doing so with the utmost care for our employees,” Svenska Spel president and chief executive Patrik Hofbauer (pictured) explained.

“Our hope is to be able to quickly resume full operations and staffing when the situation improves,” Hofbauer added. “But right now we do not know how this situation will develop, or how long it will last, and therefore it is necessary that we take steps to ensure a sustainable business.”

Finally, Svenska Spel’s board of directors has opted to withdraw its recommendation for an SEK850m (£68.0m/€76.9m/$84.3m) dividend to be issued to shareholders.

This was proposed following the publication of the operator’s 2019 results, which revealed a 2.4% year-on-year decline in revenue to SEK8.58bn, with net profit for the year dropping 40.0% to SEK2.48bn.

Unlike almost all other European countries, Sweden has to date resisted introducing stringent social distancing measures, and its schools, bars, restaurants and shops all remain open. A restriction on gatherings of more than 500 people was in place until last Friday (27 March), when this was revised down to 50 people, while home working is being encouraged.