Swedish central bank to prevent Crane Currency from printing krona in Malta

Crane Currency, the American printing giant which opened a Malta facility in 2016, recently announced it will close down a printing company in Tumba

A plan to shift the printing of the Swedish currency banknote in Crane Currency’s new Malta plant has hit the rocks it would seem, after the Swedish Central Bank declared it will prevent the country’s currency printing from moving to the island.

Crane Currency, the American printing giant which opened a Malta facility in 2016, recently announced it will close down a printing company in Tumba which has historically manufactured Sweden’s banknotes since 1755 – the only such printer in Sweden.

The plant was acquired by Crane from the Swedish Riksbank (central bank) in 2002 for €15 million.

While Crane will leave design and support functions in Tumba, the paper mill will be shuttered. Crane Currency president Annemarie Watson told its 170 employees that fierce competition and the existing infrastructure at the Tumba plant had forced the move. Crane Currency employs over 1,300 employees in six locations in the United States, Sweden and Malta.

But the news has not been welcomed by the authorities at the Riksbank that controls the country’s currency.

In a comment to MaltaToday, a spokesperson for the bank said Crane had notified the Riksbank last week that they will no longer print banknotes at their facility in Tumba.

“The Riksbank’s agreement with Crane clearly stipulates that the printing of Swedish notes should take place at Tumba. Printing Swedish banknotes on Malta would in that respect violate the agreement between the Riksbank and Crane,” spokesperson Tomas Lundberg said.

When asked what had motivated the Riksbank’s decision to prevent the printing of Swedish banknotes in Malta, the spokesperson said the central bank had never considered printing its banknotes in Malta.

“The first requirements for participating in the procurement to get an agreement to print Swedish banknotes has been for the banknotes to be printed in northern and or central Europe. When Crane won the last procurement we clarified further in the agreement that the banknotes had to be printed in Tumba. In line with that, printing the Swedish banknotes in Malta has never been an option.

“The Riksbank is now continuing to work to find a good solution for the continued production of Swedish banknotes.”

The reaction also came hot on the heels of a broadcast on Swedish TV4 News earlier in the week, which delved into the role of the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri in securing the €100 million investment from Crane Currency.

Joseph Muscat had already described Schembri – whose group of companies includes a paper merchant as well as a print engineering unit – as “the catalyst in making sure that things get done” in negotiations with the Boston currency giant.

It later transpired that Schembri’s company, Kasco Technical Services, was the Malta agent for Komori, a company that supplies Crane’s printing machines. The Opposition Nationalist Party cried foul, accusing Schembri of a blatant conflict of interest as a result of his business interest in the deal.

Schembri had however said Kasco would not be supplying Crane with any machinery but that it could carry out servicing for the American currency printing company. “Having knowledge of the industry, I can confirm that currency printing machinery requires strict security features and specifications and therefore such machinery is not acquired through third parties but directly from the manufacturer.”

According to the Riksbank’s head of payments, Christina Weishammar, any future printing of krona will be limited to northern Europe once the Riksbank issues a new tender for the currency printing. She was answering questions from business newspaper Dagens Industri as to whether Crane could win a new procurement contract, using its Malta facility.

News of the Tumba closure has now prompted criticism by Swedish MPs, among them Moderate Party MP Lotta Olsson who asked finance minister Per Bolund to change the rules and ensure that Swedish banknotes are printed in Sweden. “My belief is that you must have a banknote that is physically in Sweden. It feels very strange if it is sent abroad… Even though we do not use paper money everyday, we have to think about what happens during a crisis,” Olsson told Aftonbladet.