The Swedish group TELE2, one of Europe’s largest telecommunications operators, had invested in an entity in Kazakhstan, MTS, that was owned via a joint venture together with an external party. Tele2 owned 51% of the Joint venture and MTS was financed by Tele2’s financing entity, Tele2 Treasury AB, which, during 2011-2015, had issued multiple loans to MTS.
In September 2015, the currency on the existing internal loans to MTS was changed from dollars to KZT. At the same time a ‘Form of Selection Note’ was signed according to which Tele2 Treasury AB could recall the currency denomination within six months. A new loan agreement denominated in KZT, replacing the existing agreements, was then signed between Tele2 Treasury AB and MTS. In the new agreement the interest rate was also changed from LIBOR + 4.6% to a fixed rate of 11.5%. As a result of these contractual changes to the loan agreements with MTS, Tele2 Treasury AB in its tax filing deducted a total currency loss of SEK 1 840 960 000 million for FY 2015.
Following an audit, the Swedish tax authorities issued an assessment where the tax deduction for the full amount had been disallowed. However, during the proceedings at Court the authorities acknowledged deductions for part of the currency loss – SEK 745 196 000 – related to the period between 22 October to 31 December 2015. Hence, at issue before the Court was disallowed deductions of the remaining amount of SEK 1 095 794 000.
Decision of the Court
The Administrative Court ruled in favor of the tax authorities. Tele2 Treasury AB could not deduct exchange rate losses resulting from the loan arrangements with MTS related to the period between 1 September and 21 October 2015.
“…there have been no reasons to assume that MTS has risked bankruptcy, and that the company’s right to interest and repayments would thus have been in jeopardy. Thus, MTS’s financial position cannot be a reason to believe that the currency conversion would have been commercially justified. With regard to commerciality, the court considers it strange that an independent lender would take great risks to secure the financing when the borrower and another external player are to carry out a merger. That the company assumed responsibility for getting MTS financing in place speak instead of that it was the financial interests of the common interests that prompted the decision to conduct currency conversion. The court thus considers that the company cannot be considered to have any significant interest in securing MTS financing. In this context, the company has stated that other companies within the Tele2 Group’s financial interests must be taken into account when assessing the current issue. However, as stated by the Administrative Court above, the relationship with any other companies in a partnership with the trader shall not be taken into account. In this context, the company has referred to the Court of Appeal in Gothenburg’s judgment of 30 September 2011 in case no. 5854-10. However, the Administrative Court cannot, based on the circumstances and reasoning in the judgment, read out any general conclusions that could provide support for the company’s view in the current cases. The Administrative Court therefore considers that the company’s reasons for the conversion cannot be considered to be any other than reasons attributable to the common interest with MTS.”
According to a press release from TELE2 the decision will be appealed.Sweden vs TELE2 040121