The Almedalen political week is the world’s largest event of its kind and provides a unique meeting ground for political decision makers, interest groups and businesses. EQT and some portfolio companies participated also this year.
Each year in early July the small and quaint medieval city of Visby on the Baltic island of Gotland becomes the center of power in Sweden as thousands of the Swedish decision making and opinion shaping elite congregate in Visby for the “Almedalen Political Week”.
“Almedalen is both a great place to come into contact with politicians and other decision makers in an informal way but also to get a sense of and contribute to the discussion around relevant topics”, says Stefan Glevén, partner at EQT Partners, investment advisor to the EQT funds.
The week is organized by the eight political parties in parliament and the program includes keynote speeches by all party leaders where new political initiatives are often launched. The event traces its humble beginnings to 1968 when then education minister Olof Palme spontaneously got onto the back of a truck in Visby and held a speech. Today it has evolved into the world’s largest political fair with most of the government and parliament on site. Political bodies, authorities, interest groups, unions, business associations and other arrange some 2 500 debates and seminars covering a very broad range of issues but always with a political component. A classic Scandinavian touch is the event’s openness and accessibility. Anyone can attend and join seminars or chat up a minister or MP in the street or at the frequent cocktail events.
Stefan Glevén participated in a debate with Social Democrat group leader Mikael Damberg and Christian Democrat MP and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Industry and Trade Mats Odell. The theme was how government and private equity could co-operate and work together.
“Private equity has become a lot more visible and important in a forum such as this which is good. I think there is a lot our industry can learn here but it is also important we voice our opinions and perspectives on critical issues for the society such as growth, job creation and welfare. This is a Swedish forum but I believe the same would be true for any market where EQT is present”, continues Stefan Glevén.
As EQT and private equity in general increasingly invest in companies either with key roles in society such as infrastructure or are publically funded such as education or health care it becomes crucial to engage with the political sphere and in the public debate to increase awareness of private equity, how it works and what it can contribute.
EQT recently acquired fiber network company IP-Only with the explicit intention and desire to acquire Metro Area Networks, local fiber networks typically owned by municipalities to create a national fiber network player to rival the incumbent Telia. This sparked a debate on whether municipalities should sell them and if consolidation threatened open networks and consequences for the consumers. In Almedalen, EQT’s Industrial Advisor Gunnar Asp, Chairman of IP-Only, took on the challenge in a number of debates including politicians, regulators and consumer groups.
AcadeMedia, Sweden’s largest private supplier of education within the Swedish school voucher system, was also active in a number of seminars and debates on how to improve quality in schools and various aspects of the voucher system. AcadeMedia is owned by the EQT V fund.
Swedegas, which owns and operates Sweden’s gas distribution network and is owned by EQT’s first Infrastructure fund, arranged and hosted a series of seminars on Sweden’s ambition to become Co2 neutral as a country by 2050. Swedegas’ network can play a key role in such a process due to its capacity to carry biogas just as well as natural gas. ISS is another portfolio company present in Almedalen to talk about how the public sector can and should use outsourcing to increase productivity and flexibility.