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Home BUSINESSAs govt cuts costs stockowners rake in money
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Wed, 17 Feb, 2016 12:00:45 AM
FTimes- Xinhua Report, Feb 17
Helsinki Stock Exchange Office. File Photo Lehtikuva.
While the Finnish government and industries have kept calling for lower salaries and expenditure cuts in the past year or longer in a bid to improve the country's competitive edge, stock owners have been reveling in a "feast" of near-record earnings.
About 70 percent of Finnish listed companies have announced better results in 2015. The dividends paid out to owners for 2015 are expected to reach 11.5 billion euros. dollars).
The amount of dividends is close to the historic record of 11.9 billion euros in 2007 as the euro was traded at around 1.085 dollars on Friday in New York.
The big names among the Finnish companies include shop chain Kesko, whose stocks went up from 1.50 euros per stock in 2014 to 2.50 in 2015, escalator and lift producer Kone from 1.20 to 1.40 euros, oil giant Neste from 0.65 to 1.00 euros and leather and fur giant Saga Furs from 0.70 to 1.00 euros.
Telecommunication giant Nokia is giving 0.15 euros as an annual dividend plus an additional 0.10-euro return.
There are also some companies facing major problems like mining technology company Outotec, whose board suggested zero instead of 0.10 euros last year. Media giant Sanoma plans to give 0.10 euros instead of 0.20 euros for 2014.
Finnish language business daily Kauppalehti has attributed the general industrial success mainly to spending cuts. Kauppalehti analyst Ari Rajala noted that in fact, the combined turnover of Finnish listed companies has been declining in recent years, and good results have been a spinoff of the decreased value of the euro.
Sensing the anger felt by wage earners, industrial workers union Team has launched a visible campaign on social media to reveal the fact that the nation is still required to accept lower salaries and faces layoffs, as a "dividends feast" is being celebrated by investors.
The union has come up with some interesting findings and raised some thought-provoking questions.
For example, the company Nokian Tyres showed a 7-million-euro increase in dividends, and Team commentators have found out the sum was exactly the same that the company had set as the target of personnel cutbacks in autumn 2014.
Moreover, Team laments the loss of Finland's long-time industrial glory, noting that scissors maker Fiskars, which is planning a small increase in dividends, decided to close down its iconic Finnish "Arabia" porcelain plant in Helsinki, although some of its production will be continued in Asia.
The campaign launched by Team also raises the question why successful companies in many cases do not want to invest in or spend more on product development in Finland. Corporate decisions have indicated caution in investing in Finland, with some exceptions such as pulp production.
What may aggravate the consternation is the fact that normal Finns spend comparatively little on buying stocks. The biggest investment of a Finnish family would usually be in housing.
According to a survey published by local newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, the most affluent one percent of the nation accounted for 77 percent of wealth of private investors on the Finnish stock market.
Much more wealth of the Finnish stock market is in the hands of the minority. The wealth of private investors in the Helsinki Stock Exchange was 28 billion euros last year. 
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