Swedbank bails out of bailout.
Feeling solvent and confident, Swedbank has withdrawn from the Swedish government's bank rescue program. The nation's fourth largest bank, Swedbank, announced that they will leave the Swedish government's bank rescue program because the bank credit market has stabilized. Swedbank pointed out that they had not borrowed under the program since July 2009. Still, the bank will have outstanding loans previously issued under the guarantee until July 2014. "Achieving financial independence was one of the main arguments behind Swedbank's rights issue in August 2009. Leaving the formal government guarantee program is another step in the process," said CEO Michael Wolf. He expects the bank to make a profit this year after posting a 9.46 billion crowns ($1.3 billion) operating loss last year. The state guarantee program gave the bank access to finance during the turbulent period from autumn 2008 until summer 2009. "The guarantee has also implicitly benefited all banks in Sweden and has been an important precondition for allowing the Swedish banking system to stand relatively strong during and after the financial crisis," said Swedbank's Chairman of the Board, Lars Idermark. Swedbank has borrowed a total of 412.2 billion crowns within the state guarantee since 2008. 234.8 billion crowns is made up of short term maturities. Swedbank borrowed 200 billion crowns ($27.7 billion) since July 2009 in long term financing from sources outside the state loans program.

Fewer bankruptcies in Sweden.
Compared with last year, companies filing bankruptcy in the first quarter fell by 17% and, during March, by 14% according to figures from the Growth Analysis Department of the government's Ministry of Business. This March, 695 companies (including sole proprietorships) were placed into bankruptcy, compared with 808 companies last year, which was a 14% decrease. Affected employees of bankrupt companies fell by 38% to 2,085 persons, compared to 3,390 people March 2009. In the service sector, 267 firms filed bankruptcy, a 10% decrease from 298 companies in March 2009. In the trade sector, bankruptcies were down by 22% to 158 compared to 202 in March last year. In manufacturing, bankruptcies dropped by 33% to 52, and in the “Many entrepreneurs are still struggling with profitability, but everything suggests that the crisis is over for Swedish companies this time”, said Roland Sigbladh, Marketing Director at the credit information agency UC. Resource: www.tillvaxtanalys.se

Walk of Death in Helsingborg.
Oh, it sounds so much worse than it is! It is really just a lovely 7.8 kilometer-long walk (4.8 miles) in Helsingborg outlining the shape of Death as played by Bengt Ekerot in Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal”. The Walk of Death, or “Dödenpromenaden” as it is called in Swedish, will lead its followers not to Hades, but to new places and streets in the city of Helsingborg. Ingmar Bergman began his career as a theater director at Helsingborgs stadsteater in 1944 and remained there for 2 years. The film “The Seventh Seal” was filmed between July 2 and August 24 in 1956. The scene where Max von Sydow (as the knight who returns from a Crusade) first meets Death was shot at Hovs Hallar, a nature reserve on the northern tip of the Bjäre Peninsula in Skåne, Sweden. The Walk of Death was developed by Lokaldelen.se and Studio Total as an experiment in how we read maps and how the experience of map reading can be enhanced.

'New York's Anders' in Stockholm.
Swedish New Yorkers are already familiar with Brooklyn-based artist Anders Knutsson. But if you happen to be in Stockholm, then you can go have a look at Anders Knutsson’s “Long Painting” at its new home at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet. The painting is one in a long series of monochrome paintings Knutsson created in New York at the end of the 1970’s. “I gave it the name ‘Long Painting’ because I worked so hard on it for so long – over two years,” says Anders. “That and the fact that it is quite long, over 2 meters (6 feet 5). There’s also another aspect to it, which is more difficult for me to put into words, but it has a depth to it, the painting. For me it is both mystical and mysterious.” “Long Painting” can best be described as being of a deep red-violet hue, perhaps the color of love, of flesh. www.modernamuseet.se and www.andersknutsson.com

Demonstrations against new Göteborg mosque.
The extreme nationalistic organization Nordisk Ungdom (Nordic Youth) recently arranged a demonstration in Göteborg against the building of a new mosque in the city. Around 100 demonstrators (as well as 300 counter demonstrators from Nätverket mot Rasism – the Network Against Racism) gathered, and though the counter demonstrators tried to get through the police barriers, the police managed to keep the groups apart and no arrests were made.

Bocelli - with a little help from Ernman.
It’s been said that Andrea Bocelli, you know the enormously popular Italian tenor, has bridged the gap between pop music and opera. He is of course not the first one to do so, if in case it is a true statement. Another performer who has bridged, or tried to bridge, the aforementioned gap is Swedish opera singer Malena Ernman, the mezzo-soprano who represented Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow last year. So why not put the two on stage together? That should make for opera-pop success. The folks at Stockholm’s Globen got the bright idea, so when Bocelli came to perform Ernman was eagerly waiting. Bocelli has sung arias and duets with many a famous singer (Sarah Brightman, Celine Dion and Christina Aguilera to mention just a few), but it seems his duet with Ernman was a cut above. Writes Carl-Gunnar Åhlén in Svenska Daglbadet: “Malena Ernman used her few minutes (on stage) in an almost unbelievably effective manner. In Rosina’s aria from ‘The Barber of Seville’ she made the audience laugh and the orchestra raise the bar. And when she sang the amazing end scene of Carmen she triggered Bocelli to surpass himself. With her face full of hate, she at once put a protecting arm around Bocelli as Don José, giving him encouraging hugs – whenever has that before been seen? Strange that nobody among Bocelli’s regular staff has understood the importance of physical contact even for a blind person.” Long live Ernman and Bocelli, in other words!