Working Paper No. 56. Buttwill, Klas (2004). Does Sweden Have Too Many or Too Few Bankruptcies Compared to EU Countries, Norway and the USA?

Abstract: The main purpose with this paper is to compare the frequency of liquidation bankruptcies in Sweden with the frequency of bankruptcies in countries (Germany, U.S., Finland, Norway, U.K. and Denmark) that have a similar economic structure and there by are we able to investigate the legal influence on bankruptcies and costs associated with bankruptcies. When one judges the frequency of bankruptcy in different countries, the main issue is to decide which frequency of bankruptcy is the optimal one (the efficient one). A country is classified as having “too many” bankruptcies when firms that have a positive net present value (in financial distress but not in economic distress) are closed or if many of the bankruptcies are due economically related crimes. A country is classified as having “too few” bankruptcies when firms that are in both in financial and economic distress continues to operate. Relating bankruptcies to number of employees in the respective country makes it possible to compare frequency of bankruptcies between countries. We compare frequency of bankruptcy between countries for the period 1985 to 1996. Sweden, Norway and Finland have on average a significant higher frequency of bankruptcies than the other countries. In Germany, Finland, Great Britain and Sweden is the use of a reorganisation procedure not a real option to the liquidation procedure, in contrast to U.S. The construction industry and the industry wholesale and retail, repairs, Hotels and restaurants are the industries in every country that either has the highest frequency of bankruptcy or belongs to the industries with the highest frequency of bankruptcy. In Sweden there are four years that deviate in the period of investigation (both in total number of bankruptcies but also with respect to the individual industry bankruptcies) due to an extremely high frequency of bankruptcies (1991 to 1994) and this is the case also for the other countries (at least for the total number of bankruptcies) except for Germany and U.S. Norway is the country with the highest proportion of bankruptcy firms with no employees in relation to total number of bankruptcies. There is no indication that shell-companies are the driving force behind the frequency of bankruptcies in Sweden during the time period investigated. In Sweden, for the period 1991 to 1994, there is an indication that companies ended up earlier than normally in liquidation bankruptcy and also that these companies are in better financial condition than normally. For Sweden, it seems as though the banks do not explicitly file for bankruptcy.