Sweden’s parliament called on the country’s government to review ways to divest its 37 per cent stake in Telia, which could raise more than SEK68 billion ($7.3 billion).

During a debate held to approve Telia’s latest round of share buybacks, which could effectively increase the government’s stake, politicians voted for measures to be drawn-up to divest its entire holding in the long-term.

In an official statement, the parliament noted “the main task of the state is not to own and run companies”.

The debate about the state’s stake in Telia has been rumbling on for some time.

Prior a general election in 2018, several politicians warned the government would have too much media influence should Telia’s acquisition of TV company Bonnier Broadcasting be approved. This is because the company runs commercial channels competing directly with public broadcaster SVT. The deal is still going through EU regulators.

Earlier this week, Telia CEO Johan Dennelind and chair of the board Marie Ehrling released a joint statement defending its acquisition of Bonnier Broadcasting, stating: “Telia will safeguard the editorial independence, regardless of whether the state owns just over a third of the company or not.”

The two also attempted to allay concerns on whether a reduction in state influence on Telia would open vital infrastructure to outside influences, as had been suggested by politicians keen for Sweden to maintain its stake.

“We follow the debate and would like to emphasise that we welcome everyone as shareholders and have no views on state ownership of Telia,” the pair added.

“It is a matter for the government and the parliament.”

“We also welcome a dialogue and an analysis of Telia’s role in maintaining national security and our future role in the media market, but these issues should not be mixed with the issue of state ownership in the company.”