A History of Focusing on the Future
Our roots lie in 20th Century Sweden and investments in the iron, paper and woodworking industries. Subsequent far-sighted investments in telecoms, media and new technology helped lay the groundwork for today's thriving Swedish tech scene. We are now a key player in the global digital consumer market, growing digital businesses both in developed and emerging markets.
Kinnevik was founded as an investment company in 1936 by Hugo Stenbeck, Wilhelm Klingspor and Robert von Horn. At the beginning, the company’s key assets were in agriculture, candy and forestry through shares in Mellersta Sveriges Lantbruks AB, Lidköpings Konfektyr Industri AB and Korsnäs Sågverks AB. The company grew quickly through share purchases and acquisitions of businesses such as chocolate manufacturer Nordiska Suchard and iron foundry Halmstads Järnverk.
Image: Hugo Stenbeck, Wilhelm Klingspor and Robert von Horn.
Kinnevik’s acquisition strategy of Swedish industrial companies continued during the company’s first decades. Kinnevik bought shares in companies such as Auto-Marine (Robert Bosch AB), Höganäs-Billesholm and Partner, as well as increased its ownership in existing portfolio companies, especially Korsnäs.
In 1954, Kinnevik was listed on the Stockholm stock exchange and obtained additional capital in a new share issue. A few years later, Kinnevik together with Korsnäs acquired a controlling stake in Sandviken Jernverk (today Sandvik AB).
When large blocks of shares in Kinnevik is out for sale, these are acquired by Hugo Stenbeck, thereby significantly increasing his stake in the company.
In the early 1960s Hugo Stenbeck replaced Wilhelm Klingspor as chairman of Kinnevik. Shortly thereafter Hugo Stenbeck’s oldest son, the lawyer Hugo Stenbeck Jr, became managing director of the company.
Image: Kinnevik Board meeting in the 1970s.
The shareholding in Sandvik AB increased steadily during the late 1970s, while Kinnevik also increased its position in Fagersta AB.
A major holding in the insurance company Atlantica was acquired in 1978.
Several auto companies were acquired in 1980 and were gathered under the name Svenska Motor AB. This included the import and sales of Toyota vehicles.
Jan Stenbeck, Hugo Stenbeck Jr’s younger brother, entered the board of directors in 1972. Four years later, in 1976, Hugo Stenbeck Jr passed away and only the year after, Hugo Stenbeck Sr also passed away.
Image: Jan Hugo Stenbeck.
In the early 1980s, Kinnevik founded Comvik AB, launched a new mobile telephony system and, after a number of legal battles with state-owned Televerket, gained a favourable ruling by The Supreme Administrative Court. In 1985, a satellite system for television distribution was completed and during the late 1980s the battle intensified with the state-owned monopolies in telecommunications, television and radio.
Skånska Cementgjuteriet (today Skanska) acquired a corner in Sandvik AB in 1983, resulting in Kinnevik selling Sandvik but retaining and strengthening its stake in Korsnäs.
Kinnevik founded Tele2 in 1986 and on New Year’s Eve 1987, TV3 sent its premier broadcast from London. Comvik obtained authorisation to start a new mobile telephony network in 1989.
In 1990, Kinnevik founded Millicom International Cellular S.A. (MIC) by combining the international licences of Millicom Inc. and Comvik International. MIC became a pioneer in mobile phone technology globally.
Image: Advertising for telecom operator in Hong Kong, where Kinnevik got a license.
The first Kinnevik-run radio broadcasts began in 1991. In the same year, Kinnevik became the largest owner in newly established Swedish TV channel TV4 with a 20 percent shareholding. In 1995, Kinnevik founded customer services provider Transcom as well as freesheet newspaper Metro International.
Tele2 was listed on the Stockholm stock exchange in 1996, after becoming a household name across Europe. Shortly after, MTG was incorporated as a subsidiary of Kinnevik, having previously been a business area (Kinnevik TV & Media). MTG was spun-off to shareholders in 1997 and listed in Stockholm and New York.
By the mid-1990s, Millicom had secured mobile licenses in Cambodia and Honduras, and had operations in 20 countries. By the turn of the century, Millicom was expanding in Africa, Asia and Latin America and MTG and Tele2 continued to grow.
Vigo Carlund was appointed CEO of Kinnevik in 1999.
Between 2005 and 2010 there was a major shift in the shareholdings in which ownership in Millicom, among others, increased and forestry shares decreased. Kinnevik focused on new investments in online, agriculture, microfinance and renewable energy. At this time, the foundation was laid for investments in a number of internet businesses, particularly e-commerce companies.
In 2002, Jan Stenbeck passed away and was replaced by Edvard von Horn as Chairman of the Board of Directors. Pehr G. Gyllenhammar was elected Chairman of the Board in 2004 and was succeeded in 2007 by Jan Stenbeck’s daughter, Cristina Stenbeck.
Mia Brunell Livfors was appointed CEO of Kinnevik in 2006.
Kinnevik’s focus on e-commerce and internet companies was further strengthened after 2010 with major investments in Zalando, Avito, Rocket Internet and Global Fashion Group, among others.
In 2013, Kinnevik sold all its remaining shares in BillerudKorsnäs, further increasing the share of online in its portfolio.
Zalando and Rocket Internet, two Kinnevik-backed companies, made their Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in 2014. In October 2015, Avito was sold to the South African media conglomerate Naspers.
In March 2016, Cristina Stenbeck announced her intention to step down as Chairman of Kinnevik and was replaced at the 2016 AGM by Tom Boardman. Cristina Stenbeck remains a board director of Kinnevik.